Ancient Egypt, New Kingdom Period, Ramesside Period, 19th to 20th Dynasty, ca. 1292 to 1077 BCE. A superb composition ushabti made from white faience using a bivalve mold and covered in a transparent glaze. The figure stands in mummiform with raised arms crossed over the chest, hands holding two picks in front of a drooping usekh pectoral collar, and a small seed bag draped over the right shoulder. The projecting face displays almond-shaped eyes with elongated outer corners, a petite nose, cupped ears, and a thin mouth, all brought forth by applied black pigment and surrounded by a striated tripartite wig. A single inscribed column of hieroglyphic text denotes this figure as an overseer of the workers tending the fields of Osiris in the afterlife. A marvelous example of Ramesside stylization! Custom wooden display stand included. Size: 1.75" W x 4.375" H (4.4 cm x 11.1 cm); 5.25" H (13.3 cm) on included custom stand.
The ancient Egyptians believed that after they died, their spirits would have to work in the "Field of Reeds" owned by the god of the underworld, Osiris. This meant doing agricultural labor -- and it was required by all members of society, from workers to pharaohs. During the Pharaonic period, they had become so necessary and elaborate that some tombs contained one worker for every day of the year and thirty-six overseers, each responsible for ten laborers. Workers like these are from that period of enormous proliferation, and are some of our best surviving insights into ancient Egyptian funerary practices.
For a stylistically-similar example with added red and yellow pigment, please see The Metropolitan Museum of Art, accession number 86.1.18: https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/547708
A very similar example hammered for $5,019 at Christie's, New York Antiquities Auction (sale 1244, June 11, 2003, lot 19): https://www.christies.com/lotfinder/lot/an-egyptian-faience-shabti-for-ruyu-new-4108071-details.aspx?from=searchresults&intObjectID=4108071&sid=dff316a0-587d-4c9a-8dce-36cf18fdb92a
Provenance: private East Coast, USA collection; ex-Richard Wagner collection, Cape Cod, Massachusetts, USA, acquired in the 1970s
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Surface wear and abrasions commensurate with age, minor nicks to feet and head, light yellowing to some white areas, fading to some areas of black pigment, and minor pitting, otherwise intact and excellent. Faint traces of red pigment around head, and nice earthen deposits throughout.