The Hirsch Shabti
Middle Kingdom, 13th Dynasty, c.1760-1550 BC
serpentine with traces of red pigment and gilding
Height: 22 cm
Provenance: Dr. Jacob Hirsch (1874-1955); sold 'Collection Hirsch; Antiquités', Hotel Drouot, Paris, 30 June-2 July 1921, lot 84; Alton Edward Mills (1882-1970), Switzerland and thence by descent
This exquisitely carved serpentine shabti figure is the finest of only a small group of shabtis datable to the Dynasty XIII.
It was a time when the development of the shabti tradition was still young, and the convention was still ‘one man (or woman), one shabti.’ Later, in the New Kingdom and Late Dynastic periods, hundreds of ‘cookie cutter’ ushabtis would accompany the dead on their underworld journey.
The shabti bears a strong likeness to the king of the time, Neferhotep I, and wears a royal Khat headcloth- a royal prerogative. Egyptologists generally believe that by wearing or possessing a royal attribute, the deceased, like the owner of the Hirsch shabti, could become one with the Lord of Eternity, Osiris, and enjoy eternal life.
It formed part of a collection of antiquities auctioned at Drouot in Paris in 1921, assembled by the eminent German-Swiss collector and dealer, Dr Jacob Hirsch (1874–1955).