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An Egyptian Wood & Polychrome Shabti Box, Late-Ptolemaic Period ca. 664 -30 BC

From the New Kingdom on, ushabti figures were often placed in a painted wooden boxes that were shaped like a shine.  This fine example is decorated with the deities associated with death and the afterlife.  The lid depicts the figure of a jackal on top of a shrine, representing the embalming god Anubis.  The two side panels depict the four sons of Horus, gods who protected the vital organs of the body after mummification.  One side shows the human-headed Imsety, protector of the liver and baboon-headed Hapi, protector of the lungs both facing proper right.  The other depicts the jackal-headed Duamutef, protector of the stomach and hawk-headed Qubehsenuef, protector of the intestines, both facing proper left.  On the back panel a seated Ra holds an ankh and the front depicts the head of Osiris on top of a palace. The feather was often shown as a symbol for Ma'at, the goddess of truth and order, and is associated as a symbol of truth weighed against the heart.  Each side is decorated with a motif of red lattice and blue dots against a white background.

Ref: Richard H. Wilkinson, Reading Egyptian Art: A Hieroglyphic Guide to Ancient Egyptian Painting and Sculpture, London: Thames and Hudson (1992).

Dimensions: Height: 13 1/2 inches (34.29 cm), width: 11 1/4 inches (28.5 cm)

Condition:  Although there is some loss and expected minor wear to the exterior, the painted polychrome decoration is exceptionally good and still very vibrant after 2400 years.  Overall, box is intact and in excellent condition.

Provenance: The Simonian Family Collection of Ancient Art, Switzerland, acquired in the 1960's and then by descent.


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