Shawabty of Huy

Egyptian
New Kingdom, possibly Dynasty 19
1295–1186 B.C.


Dimensions

Height x width: 16.5 x 5 cm (6 1/2 x 1 15/16 in.)

Accession Number

72.1670

Medium or Technique

Pottery

Not On View

Collections

The Ancient World

Classifications

Shawabties and shawabty boxes

This shawabty is fashioned of pottery of mostly reddish composition. It is mummiform in shape, wearing a black-painted tripartite wig. The face is painted yellow with the torso and arms a reddish-brown. Arms are crossed on the chest, right over left. The left hand holds a broad hoe, which is painted on with reddish-brown. The right hand likely also held an implement of field work, though the paint has worn away. The shawabty’s feet show a central band of reddsh-brown on a white ground. The legs are black with four horizontal bands of white hieroglyphic text with dividing lines, identifying the shawabty’s owner as Huy. The reddish-brown band emerging from the top and bottom of the text field may indicate secondary use of the shawabty, the black field possibly having been painted over a previous column of hieroglyphic text. However, this is not certain. Somewhat battered condition; broken and mended.

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.

Provenance

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: June 28, 1872)

Credit Line

Hay Collection—Gift of C. Granville Way