Shawabty of Queen Neferu (Nofru) with miniature coffin

Egyptian
Middle Kingdom, Dynasty 11, reign of Mentuhotep II
2061–2010 B.C.


Findspot: Egypt, Thebes (Deir el-Bahri), Tomb of Queen Neferu (Nofru)

Dimensions

Length (a) Figurine: 8.1 cm (3 3/16 in.) Length x width (b) coffin: 18.4 x 4.9 cm (7 1/4 x 1 15/16 in.) Length x width (c) lid: 18.4 x 4.9 cm (7 1/4 x 1 15/16 in.)

Accession Number

37.550a-c

Medium or Technique

Wax, wood, linen

On View

Stanford and Norma Jean Calderwood Gallery (Gallery 119)

Collections

The Ancient World

Classifications

Shawabties and shawabty boxes

This set consists of: (a) a wax funerary figurine of a woman with an associated miniature wooden coffin (b) and lid (c). They were made for Queen Nofru (Neferu), wife of King (Nebheptre) Mentuhotep II.

The wax figurine is somewhat crudely carved, wearing a tripartite wig. Arms are held at the sides, carved independently from body. The right arm has broken off at the shoulder. The figurine’s attire is likely meant to indicate long dress rather than mummy wrappings. The box coffin is of a Middle Kingdom style with a band of blue-green painted hieroglyphic text (now somewhat faded) around upper rim of box and down the central length of the lid. A pair of wadjet-eyes has also been painted on the side of the coffin at the head end. A mass of linen packs the interior of the coffin.

These items date to a period that may have been prior to the formal recognition of similar funerary figures explicitly as shawabtys, though their function may have been similar. 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. Shawabtys could be provided with their own model coffins and/or wrapped in linen bandages like an actual mummy.

Provenance

From Deir el-Bahari, Tomb of Queen Neferu (Nofru). 1923-1924: Excavated by the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MMA) Expedition; assigned to the MMA by the government of Egypt in the division of finds. Received by exchange from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, N.Y. (Accession Date: August 12, 1937)

Credit Line

Recieved from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, by exchange