Auction July 18

Ushebtis, art and eternal life

Find out more about Ancient Egypt

Howard Carter’s first impression when he peered through a hole into the contents of Tutankhamun’s tomb was to exclaim, “I see wonderful things.” The grave goods of the Child King are a treasure in themselves both for their historical value and for the precious materials from which they are made. However, not all Egyptian tombs were provided with these luxuries.

Fotografía de Howard Carter

Funerary rituals were similar throughout Egypt’s long history, and the different social classes focused their economic possibilities on guaranteeing themselves an adequate future in the afterlife. One of the most common elements used for rituals were small sculptures of clay, stone or faience called ‘Ushebti’.

Its appearance is reminiscent of the mummies themselves, being a representation of the deceased where he is depicted with a shroud and maintaining the posture of the God of Resurrection, Osiris. Unlike the presentations of the God, these small sculptures are inscribed with the names of their owners and carry as their main attribute the hoe instead of the whip and scepter like the pharaohs.

The souls that passed the judgment before Osiris were taken to the “Aaru” or “the Kingdom of the God”, which represented the paradise in the afterlife. For the Egyptian culture this place was an idealized version of their own nation. The etymology of the name defines it as “the field of together” and is, in turn, described as a space similar to the delta of Egypt where the branches of the Nile bathe the land and turn it into a green and fertile place. There, the resurrected should serve as workers. The Ushebtis would come to life performing these functions for their masters and, thus, relieve them of the task. “Those who respond” would go out at dawn to water and plow the divine lands while the resurrected would live placidly for all eternity.

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The large number of Ushebti that accompanied the mummies respond to the daily task that corresponded to them. In many cases we find trousseaus with as many figures as there are days in the year. The statuettes represent an important testimony since they tell in a summarized form some important aspects of their owners.

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The figure of a prince of Egypt is distinguished by the braid worn by the sons of the pharaohs being one in particular one of the main ones of the great Ramses II. Khaemwaset son of the pharaoh and his second great royal wife became high priest of Phat in Memphis and crown prince. These titles prove that he was one of the most important figures during the reign of his father which is undoubtedly one of the most prosperous and brilliant eras of ancient Egypt. He was buried in the ancestral necropolis of Sacqara near Memphis, in his trousseau would be found this figure.

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This is another high priest of Amun who served between the pharaohs Ramses IV and Ramses IX. Let us remember that, during the New Kingdom, the priests of Amon were one of the most powerful agents, in many cases wielding greater power than the Pharaoh and conditioning to a great extent the destiny of the kingdom.

The names of the deceased were not only a sign of belonging, but a link between both worlds, a fundamental feature to continue the journey to eternity. Every collector who treasures an Ushebti rescues from the past a life of more than four thousand years ago whose memory and echo is still alive today.

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Lote 35317024