TITLE: Ushabti for Iriri
CULTURE: Ancient Egypt
PERIOD: New Kingdom, Dynasty XIX, Reign of Ramesses II, 1279 - 1213 B.C.
DIMENSIONS: Height 14 cm.
PRICE: 4,600 Euros.
PROVENANCE: Private collection of Dr. L. Benguerel Godó, Barcelona, acquired in London in the 1960s.
This ushabti figurine is depicted as a labourer, as he is holding two hoes to cultivate the fields of Osiris in the afterlife. He is wearing a tripartite wig. Only his hands protrude from his mummyform shroud which covers all the body. These are crossed on his chest and are holding the agricultural implements already mentioned.
The body is inscribed with a vertical column of hieroglyphs. This reads: "Glorified be the Osiris, Iriri, justified".
Auguste Mariette found ushabti figurines of Khaemweset (son of Ramesses II) in the Serapeum at Saqqara, made of limestone, faience and estatite that are today conserved in the Louvre Museum. These ushabtis and those of other royal personages from the reign of Ramesses II, along with high priests of Ptah in Memphis, have some to light in the middle of the 19th Century and the beginning of the 20th and are conserved in private collections and in museums such as the Antikenmuseum in Basel, the Musées royaux d'art et d'histoire in Brussels, and the Rijksmuseum van Oudheden in Leiden.
Ushabti were made from one original bi-valve mold. Once the two pieces were joined and the rough edges removed, and while the material was still moist, the details of the image were retouched and the columns were marked on which the hieroglyphs would be incised. This meant that each ushabti was unique, even though they had come from the same mold.
The material used for the creation of this ushabti is faience, composed of fine sand cemented with sodium carbonate and sodium bicarbonate extracted from natron. Fired at 950 degrees C, the mixture gives an enamel-like finish with the carbonates forming a vitreous surface. It was a simple procedure and therefore not costly. The green and blue tones were achieved by the addition of a few grams of copper oxide extracted from malachite or azurite. The red tones were achieved with iron oxide, the intense blues with cobalt, the black by mixing iron oxide and magnesium oxide with water. All that was needed was to paint the chosen details in the selected colour with a brush before the firing.
Ushabtis, a term which in Ancient Egypt means "answerers", were figures that directly represented the deceased person. They appeared in the Middle Kingdom and their use became popular in the New Kingdom. They formed part of the grave goods. Chapter VI of the Book of the Dead was often inscribed on the figurine, or a simpler version with the name and title of the deceased. The use of these funerary figures allowed the owner to enjoy the afterlife as the ushabtis acted as a form of worker substitute for the owner in the fields of Aaru, the Egyptian paradise, as the Egyptians believed that the spirits of these figurines would work for them and thus achieve their sustenance in the afterlife.