Stone Polychrome Ushabti - X.0153
Origin: Egypt
Circa: 1558 BC to 1085 BC
Dimensions: 7.75" (19.7cm) high
Collection: Egyptian
Style: New Kingdom
Medium: Stone, Paint


Perhaps no single object epitomizes the spirit of Ancient Egypt better than the ushabti. Shaped like a divine mummy, the ushabti evokes the magical side of the Egyptian belief in an afterlife, while the two hoes clutched in the hands recall the rural, agrarian culture of the land. The word ushabti (supplanting the older term shawabti) literally means “the answerer.” The function of these little figures is described in Chapter VI of the Book of the Dead: “O this Ushabti! If (the deceased) is called upon to do hard labor in the hereafter, say thou: I am here.” The ushabti was expected to answer the call to work in place of the deceased, and this passage was frequently inscribed on the figures themselves. Originally, a single ushabti was placed in a given tomb; but by the New Kingdom, the statues had come to be regarded as servants and slaves for the deceased rather than as a substitute, and many might be found buried together, along with an overseer figure. In the course of Egyptian history, ushabti were created from a variety of material, including wood, stone, metal, and faience.
This stone ushabti, dating from the New Kingdom, still retains a remarkable amount of its original pigment. The face and the background have both been painted yellow. The mummy’s facial features have been highlighted in black paint, while remnants of blue pigment frame his face. Perhaps the most stunning aspect of this work is the five horizontal bands of hieroglyphic inscription that decorate the front of the body. The characters were written using black paint while red was used for the dividing lines in order to clearly delineate between the columns. Red and black pigment was also used to represent the decorative details on the figure’s arms and chest. In contrast to the vibrant hues that color the majority of the work, the wig and the feet are unpainted. This beautiful ushabti is a marvelous representation of these charming figures during the New Dynasty. - (X.0153)



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