Shawabty of Ramose
New Kingdom, Dynasty 19
Height x width: 20 x 6 cm (7 7/8 x 2 3/8 in.)
Medium or Technique
Not On View
This finely modeled and painted shawabty depicts a mummiform figure with arms crossed right over left on the chest. Each hand holds a hoe (implements of field work for use in the afterlife) against the shoulder. The figure wears a fairly naturalistic duplex wig, a style common especially to the later New Kingdom. Seven horizontal bands of incised hieroglyphic text from waist to ankles record a version of the “Shawabty Spell” and identify the owner as Ramose. Surviving paint includes black, brown, brownish-red, white/yellow, blue, and red. There is some general discoloration.
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: June 28, 1872)
Hay Collection—Gift of C. Granville Way