Ushabti for Ta-Miat

Back to list

Ushabti for Ta-Miat

Second Intermediate Period-Early 18th Dynasty, 1630-1540 B.C.
H: 25.3 cm



A limestone mummiform ushabti. The elongated face projects forwards above the body, lending it great prominence. The sharp features are detailed with deep lines. The interconnected eyebrows and nose are carved in high relief, framing the lower relief eyes with cosmetic lines. Both ears sit in front of the straight wig, which falls just below the length of the small false beard under the chin. The arms are crossed over the chest, in the typical posture for ushabtis. A lotus bud is held in the proper left hand, while the hieroglyph ‘sa’ is held in the right. The sa was a protective symbol with power in both life and death. The ankh, symbol of life and revival in the afterlife, may have been a modified version of the ‘sa’.

The reverse of the ushabti is painted with two columns of hieratic text, to be read left to right, as a short form of Chapter VI of the Book of the Dead:

1) “O ye (lit. these) Shawabty* of Ta-Miat**, if I am counted, if Ta-Miat is counted in the Necropolis
2) in order to do work there, in order to convey sand of the East to the West, I will do (it)!  Here am I! thus shall you (.k, masculine pronoun***) say.”

Ta-Miat is a feminine name, meaning ‘the she-cat’. Male pronouns and the masculine word ‘shawabty’ itself occur across funerary objects belonging to women – it was not until the 19th Dynasty that ushabtis attempted to differentiate according to sex, except in the occasional use of female pronouns. Egyptian rebirth was framed within the masculine; to be reborn, the deceased body must be shaped into the form of the god Osiris. Coffins identified the deceased with male gods, Osiris and Re, and presented largely androgynous forms. The false beard on this ushabti is in keeping with the Osirian transformation. 


Antiques, Drouot Richelieu, 6-7 December 1995, cover and Lot 214 B.
12, Rupert Wace Ancient Art, 2012, Lot 6.
XXX, Rupert Wace Ancient Art, Lot 20


Previously in the Private Collection of Egyptologist Alexandre Varille (1909-1951), France, acquired prior to 1951.
With Rupert Wace Ancient Art, London, from 2011, inventory 17508.
Private Collection, London, acquired from the above 5th October 2017.
ALR: S00213001, with IADAA Certificate, this item has been checked against the Interpol database. 

Note on the Provenance

Alexandre Varille (1909-1951), born in Lyon in 1909, initially directed his studies towards Economics and Letters. Whilst attending the University of Lyon, he met Victor Loret, the Egyptology professor, and this connection sparked his interest in Egyptian philology and archaeology. After continuing his studies in Paris, Varille began working in Egypt in 1931 alongside Clément Robichon (1906-1999). The following year, he was made a member of the Institut Français d'Archéologie Orientale, an appointment he maintained until 1943. In 1939, Varille participated in the excavation of the temple of Medamoud with Fernand Bisson de la Roque, and acquired the monumental doors of Ptolemy III and Ptolemy IV for the Musée des beaux-arts de Lyon. He then ran the site in Zaouiet el-Maïetin with Raymond Weill.

Varille worked on the Karnak-North temple with Robichon from 1940 to 1943. During this period, they met René Adolphe Schwaller de Lubicz and together they founded the ‘Luxor Group’ in 1943. In 1944, after being expelled from the Institut Français, Varille was taken on as an expert by the Service des Antiquités Orientales. In this capacity, he served as a technical advisor at excavations in Saqqara and Karnak, and continued researching with the Luxor Group. Varille’s interest in the Egyptian philosophy of symbols was the focus of these later excavations and their publications. He only returned to France for short periods, including to publish En Egypte with Robichon. In 1951, Varille presented his symbolic theory at the Academy of Sciences, in the midst of the Egyptologist’s dispute over historical vs symbolist approaches. He died shortly after in a car accident at the age of 42.