Egyptian Bronze Shabti of Psusennes I

Egyptian Bronze Shabti of Psusennes I

An ancient Egyptian bronze shabti of Pharaoh Psusennes I, the mummiform figure wears a tripartite wig and holds hoes in each hand with a seed bag over his back. The front is inscribed, "The Osiris, king Psusennes ("the star rises in the city"), beloved of Amun."

Third Intermediate Period, 21st Dynasty,
Ca. 1047-1001 BC.
Height: 3 1/2 in. (8.7 cm).
From the tomb of Psusennes I at Tanis, excavated in 1940 by Pierre Montet.

Shabtis were first introduced in the Middle Kingdom as substitutes for the the mummy in case it was destroyed. During the Second Intermediate Period inscribed wooden figures called shawabtis (after the Egyptian word for wood, shawab) began to be placed in tombs. During the New Kingdom, shabtis assumed a new role as servant figures for the deceased. They were now depicted with agricultural equipment. By the Third Intermediate Period, the number of shabtis placed in the tomb was set at 401 (365 workers and 36 overseers). During the Late Period the tomb figures became known as ushabtis ('answerers'), these figures represented servants who would magically answer when called upon to perform agricultural duties for the Pharaoh (in the form of Osiris) in the afterlife. Their main function was to ensure the individual's comfort and freedom from daily labor in the next life.

cf.: P. Montet, La nécropole royale de Tanis, vol. 2: Les constructions et le tombeau de Psousennès à Tanis, (Paris, 1951), pl. IV, Tanis; J.-F. and L. Aubert, Statuettes égyptiennes. Chaouabtis, ouchebtis., (Paris, 1974), pl. 37; H.D. Schneider, Shabtis, vol. II, (Leiden, 1977), pp. 152-153,

Formerly in a German private collection, 1955-1965; Sotheby's, New York, June 12, 2001, lot 186; Nevada private collection.

Inv#: 6428


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