Shawabty of Amenhotep
New Kingdom, late Dynasty 18–20
Height x width: 14.3 x 5.4 cm (5 5/8 x 2 1/8 in.)
Medium or Technique
Not On View
This shawabty is made of pottery of reddish clay composition. It takes a mummiform shape and was painted white in imitation of linen bandages. Much of this paint has worn away. The shawabty wears a black painted tripartite wig, and the face is reddish-brown with facial details in black and white. Hands are shown crossed and opposed on the chest, painted in reddish-brown. Each hand holds a painted hoe, the one in the left hand larger than the one at right. A bag is rendered on the back as well. A column of hieroglyphic text was applied down the front of the legs, now substantially worn off and indistinct: a yellow band, only traces of which remain, has reddish-brown line borders and black text which would have identified the owner by name. The surviving text can likely be reconstructed as ” Osiris [Amen]-hotep [True-of-Voice] (i.e. justified/vindicated)” (Wsir [Imn]-Htp [mAa-xrw]). This yellow band expands over the upper chest and neck area, possibly to denote a pectoral collar/necklace or similar. Despite surface wear, the figurine is largely intact.
An ancient Egyptian shawabty is a funerary figurine that was intended to magically animate in the Afterlife in order to act as a proxy for the deceased when called upon to tend to field labor or other tasks. This expressed purpose was sometimes written on the shawabty itself in the form of a “Shawabty Spell,” of which versions of various length are known. Shorter shawabty inscriptions could also just identify the deceased by name and, when applicable, title(s). However, many shawabtys carry no text at all. The ideal number of such figurines to include in a tomb or burial seems to have varied during different time periods.
By 1836: Robert Hay Collection, Linplum, Scotland; 1863: to his son, Robert James Alexander Hay; 1868-1872: Way Collection, Boston (purchased by Samuel A. Way through London dealers Rollin and Feuardent, 27 Haymarket); 1872: given to the MFA by Samuel's son, C. Granville Way. (Accession Date: Juen 28, 1872)
Hay Collection—Gift of C. Granville Way