Shawabty of the Lady of the House, Hatres (?)
Likely New Kingdom, Dynasty 19–20
Height x width x thickness: 17.8 x 3.8 x 3.8 cm (7 x 1 1/2 x 1 1/2 in.)
Medium or Technique
Not On View
This limestone shawabty figure depicts a mummiform figure, likely female, of slender proportions. It wears a black painted tripartite wig. Facial features are also accented in black. Hands are crossed opposite and combined on the chest. Most surfaces are covered with yellowish paint. Five horizontal bands of black painted hieroglyphic text have been applied to legs with red dividing lines, recording a version of the “Shawabty Spell” for the owner.
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