Inner Coffin of Henettawy (F)

Third Intermediate Period
Dynasty 21
ca. 990–930 B.C.
From Egypt, Upper Egypt; Thebes, Deir el-Bahri, Tomb of Henettawy F (MMA 59), MMA 1923–24
Wood, gessoed, painted
L. 191 cm (75 3/16 in.); W. 54.7 cm (21 9/16 in.); D. 59.6 cm (23 7/16 in.)
Credit Line:
Rogers Fund, 1925
Accession Number:
25.3.183a, b
  • Description

    The "mistress of the house and singer of Amun-Re," Henettawy died, still in her twenties, during a time of political change (the so-called Third Intermediate Period). This was a period when the art of coffin decoration was at its height. Such decoration was especially important at the time because no images enriched the simple underground chambers in which even high-status people were buried—often whole families together.
    Henettawy's funerary equipment included two splendid coffins (25.3.182a, b; 25.3.183a, b) and an innermost lid (25.3.184), all of which are shaped like wrapped mummies with elaborate masks fastened over the heads.
    Henettawy's inner coffin lid is painted yellow all over, imitating royal coffins made of solid gold or gilded wood. The pectoral is only slightly less elaborate than the one on her outer lid (25.3.182a, b). Its main feature is a large scarab that pushes a sun disk upward to symbolize the rising sun. On each side are enthroned figures of Osiris holding the crook and flail and wearing tall headdresses with ostrich-feather plumes (note his green flesh, symbolizing vegetation, which goes through a cycle of death followed by new growth, and thus represents the rebirth into life after death). Osiris is flanked by two winged goddesses, his sisters Isis and Nephthys, who raise one hand in adoration and sound their sistrums. In front of them are tiny ba spirits of Henettawy.
    On the central vertical band, beneath Nut with her outspread wings, are (from top to bottom) a shrine with two crouching figures of Osiris flanking a scarab, Isis and Nephthys adoring the symbol of Osiris, a scepter flanked by winged wedjat eyes, and a winged scarab above the boat of the sun. Note the recurrent representations of reed mats (shown as horizontal bars with vertical subdivisions), upon which high-status people sat and on which offerings were presented; protective cobras with sun-disk headdresses; floral designs; and the hieroglyphs for "stability" and "perfect." On each side of the central band are five pairs of shrines whose roofs are adorned with protective cobras. Pillars in the shape of the hieroglyph djet, for stability, support the roofs. In each shrine, the image of a deity faces outward, where, at the edge of the coffin lid, Henettawy is seen shaking a sistrum, her hands raised in adoration. The deities she prays to are, from top to bottom, the solar gods Re and Re-Harakhty, the creator god Khnum (in the shape of a ram), the four sons of Horus (in charge of the deceased's organs), and Anubis, who sits in a much lower shrine and is adored by Henettawy's ba.

  • Provenance

    Museum excavations 1923–24. Acquired by the Museum in the division of finds, 1925.

  • See also
    In the Museum
    Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History