Shawabty of King Seti I
New Kingdom, Dynasty 19, reign of Seti I
Height x width: 19.6 x 5.7 cm (7 11/16 x 2 1/4 in.)
Medium or Technique
Not On View
This royal shawabty of dark brown wood retains slight traces of black paint. It depicts a characteristically mummiform figure wearing a tripartite wig. Hands are crossed and opposed with indications of sleeves. It is unclear whether they were originally were shown holding any kind of implements. Five horizontal bands of incised hieroglyphic text on the legs record a short version of the “Shawabty Spell” for King Seti I of early Dynasty 19. The shawabty is in worn condition with some cracking and chipping. There is a notable gouge in the left front lappet of the wig.
This is one of several hundred shawabtys of both faience and wood known for King Seti I.
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.
Likely originally from the tomb of King Seti I (KV 17), Valley of the Kings, Thebes. 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