Ancient Egypt, New Kingdom, 20th Dynasty, ca. 1189 to 1077 BCE. A fantastic, hand-carved wooden ushabti of an elegant form boasting layers of painted gesso in a characteristic New Kingdom decorative style. Presented in hues of black, red, and yellow on a white gesso ground, the figure stands in mummiform with fused legs and feet, crosses both arms atop the chest with a copper-red pick and hoe painted on top, and drapes a red and yellow seed bag along the upper half of the back. His dignified countenance exhibits almond-shaped eyes outlined in black with elongated canthi, rounded cheeks, a slender jaw line, and a tall wig with lappets that drape down to his wesekh pectoral collar. When translated, the column of hieroglyphs painted down the obverse of the legs reads, "The Osiris, priest of the goddess Mut, An-hotep." Size: 1.9" W x 7.7" H (4.8 cm x 19.6 cm)
Ushabti dolls are figures shaped like adult male or female mummies wearing traditional Egyptian headdresses. The ancient Egyptians believed that, after they died, their spirits would have to work in the "Field of Reeds" owned by Osiris, the god of the underworld. As a result, they are frequently depicted with arms crossed, typically holding picks and hoes, with baskets on their backs. This meant that the task of agricultural labor was required by all members of society, from workers and scribes to aristocrats and even pharaohs. The wealthier nobility in Egyptian society were able to have ushabti made of faience, though wood was a more economical option for members of lower classes.
Cf. The British Museum, museum number EA41548 and EA34148
Provenance: private Toronto, Ontario, Canada collection, by descent, acquired in Egypt in 1894 to 1896
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A few stable hairline fissures to upper and lower body, with abrasions and light fading to pigment, chipping to areas of painted gesso and exposed wood, and softening to facial details, otherwise intact and excellent. Wonderful preservation to painted decorations and hieroglyphic symbols.