Male Statuette (Statuette of Wepay)

  • Egypt, Middle Kingdom
  • early 2nd millennium B.C.
  • Wood
Catalogue Entry

Personal tombs in ancient Egypt were built with an underground burial chamber to house the deceased’s mummified body and an aboveground chapel made of stone. A sculpted figure of the deceased would be placed in the chapel as a dwelling place for his or her soul, and in most cases the figure depicted the deceased in an image of eternal youth and beauty. The base of the present statuette bears the inscription “Wepay, the blessed” (meaning blessed by Osiris), from which we can surmise that the deceased’s family gave him a grand funeral service. From around four thousand years ago the practice of burying the dead as mummies, formerly reserved for pharaohs, spread to other strata of society, and it was believed that the souls of the dead whom Osiris judged worthy were guaranteed a blissful afterlife. As a beneficiary of the grace of Osiris, Wepay is depicted here with what seems a smile of spiritual fulfillment.