Fragmentary limestone face of Akhenaten

From the Great Temple of the Aten, Tell el-Amarna, Egypt
18th Dynasty, around 1340 BC

This face is easy to recognize as that of Akhenaten, even though only the lower part of it remains. Akhenaten chose to be represented in a manner very different from his predecessors. It was once thought that this was the true appearance of the king, and was the result of some kind of disease or disorder. However, his wife Nefertiti and his six daughters were represented in a similar way and this suggests that the style was artistic convention.

Akhenaten's adoption of a new artistic style can be seen as both a reaction to and development from his immediate predecessors. These kings were shown as strong and active, while Akhenaten is represented as physically weak and, in scenes with his family, passive. However, features such as the almond-shaped eyes, and full lips with a distinctive raised border line can also be seen in representations of Akhenaten's father, Amenhotep III.

It is likely that Akhenaten's break from artistic tradition reflects the changes he brought about in other areas of Egyptian life. This is most prominently shown in his abandonment of the worship of the majority of Egyptian gods, in favour of the Aten, or sun disc.

Part of this statue's right ear was recently (February 2002) identified in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

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More information

Bibliography

J. Putnam, Egyptology: an introduction to (London, Apple, 1990)

W. Seipel, Gott-Mensch-Pharao (Vienna, Kunsthistoriches Museum, 1992)

E.R. Russmann, Eternal Egypt: masterworks of (University of California Press, 2001)

Dimensions

Height: 15.600 cm

Museum number

EA 13366

YCA71713

Gift of J.S. Perring (1853)

Location

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