Egyptian, Late Period, Dynasty XXX, Reign of Nectanebo II, 360-342 BC
Height: 10-1/4 inches (26 cm)
Provenance: Max de Zogheb Collection, Alexandria; Sold L’Hotel Drouot, 9 May 1912, Lot 87; Henry OppenheimerCollection; Sold Christie’s London, 22 July 1936; Sold Sotheby’s London 13 June 1966, lot 87; John F. Keane Collection, London, sold Sotheby’s London 9 July 1973, lot 66; Bouché Collection; France; European art market.
Published: Catalogue of an Exhibition of Ancient Egyptian Art, Burlington Fine Arts Club, London, 1922, no. 16; Jacques F. Aubert & Lilian Aubert, Statuettes Égyptiennes, Chaouabatis, Ouchebtis [Paris, 1974] p. 247-8


This shawabti (or “answerer”) is identified by inscription as belonging to Tchahorpata (or Tjai-hor-pa-ta), son of Tefnout, an important nobleman during the reign of Nectanebo II. In addition to naming the owner, the inscription, which covers the front of the body below the folded arms (the dorsal column is un-inscribed), includes the standard formulas to magically reanimate the figurine, as needed, by the tomb owner..

The shawabti, standing on an integral rectangular base, is fashioned of beautiful, blue-green glazed faience. The mummiform figure holds the hoe, pick, and seed-sack, which is striated to show its straw or rush construction, suspended over the left shoulder. These are the standard accoutrements of shawabti figures, as they are the tools they will need to perform agricultural duties in the afterlife. He wears a braided beard and striated tripartite wig and his finely modeled face has the eyebrows and cosmetic lines in relief. A gentle smile graces his visage.

The tomb of Tchahorpata was discovered at Saqqara in the 19th century. His sarcophagus, which is inscribed with the date of his death – ca. 345 BC – is now in Cairo. The shawabtis deposited in his tomb were some of the finest of the era.

Shawabti, (sometimes ushabtis, shabtis or shawabtys) were made in great numbers to accompany the dead to the tomb. They are “answerers” because they responded to the physical demands made upon the deceased – whether commoner, nobleman, or royal – in the afterlife. In that, they acted as substitute laborers so that the deceased individual could pass eternity in leisure.