The collection of King Akhenaton considers one of the most beautiful artifacts that belong to Egypt art, and we are going to discuss it in details.
Egyptian art: Akhenaton kissing an unknown figure
This unfinished limestone statuette is one of the most unusual works of art from ancient Egypt.
It was found in a sculptor’s workshop at Tell El-Amarna and it dates back to the new Kingdom, 18th Dynasty, the reign of Akhenaton.
The statue measures 905 cm tall it shows two figures in the act of kissing. The large figure can safely be identified as Akhenaten because he is wearing the blue crown with a uraeus.
He is depicted sitting on a cushioned throne, holding young female figure on his knees, probably his daughter Meritaten and kissing her in a touching gesture of affection and fatherhood.
The princess turns her face towards that of her father to receive his kiss, while gently touching his arm. Her wig lacks the usual side-lock of youth, and her feet rest on a tall pedestal.
Some also believe that the female figure could represent the Queen Kiya (a less well-known wife of Akhenaton) because of the wig believed to be typical of her.
Despite the statue’s unfinished state, the intimate relationship between Akhenaton and the female figure on his lap is successfully captured. This intimate is a very known at the Amarna type of art in ancient Egypt.
Such affectionate royal representations were shown in works of art only in the Amarna Period, and indicate that artists were permitted to observe and reflect the life of the royal family in the palace.
Ancient Egypt Art: facade of a shrine
This is a painted limestone façade of a shrine that dates back to the new Kingdom, 18th Dynasty, the reign of Akhenaton.
It was discovered in the house of Paneshy, at Tel El Amarna during the excavations of the Egypt Exploration Society in 1926-27. It measures, after restoration, 98cm. in height and 118cm. in width.
Placing small shrines in the form of temple facades (pylon) in private houses was a practice introduced during the Amarna period.
These shrines served as altars for the cult (and the worship) of Aton and his divine children (i.e. the royal couple).
In this way, Aton and the divine family of Akhenaton were concurrently present in the temple and in the private houses to receive offerings in one just as in the other. As the traces of color may indicate this later was once entirely painted. It has been recently restored and partially reconstructed.
The uppermost part of the façade right below the cavetto cornice is inscribed with the cartouches of Aton. (The new formula introduced after the ninth years of Akhenaton’s reign). Followed by the statement given live forever and ever.
The upper lintel of the pylon’s entrance in decorated with a frieze of cobras. The two towers (wings) of the pylon are carved with two symmetrical scenes, executed in sunk relief.
That depicts the royal family presenting offerings under the Aton’s disk, which extend its rays with human hands to dispense life to the nostrils of the divine royal couple.
The scene to the left depicts him while making a libation. The one to the right shows him consecrating offerings.
Akhenaton is followed in both scenes by his wife Nefertiti who wears her characteristic high blue crown and a long transparent robe open in the front.
She presents a libation vase at the left and holds a kherep scepter at the right.
The queen in shown with her arm extended beside her body as if about to hold hands with her eldest daughter Meritaten, which is provided with the sidelock of hair (sign of childhood), and holding a sistrum.
You can notice the characteristics of art in Egypt generally, and at the Amarna period especially through this scene.
Ancient Egypt art: the head of a princess
This brown quartzite head measures only 21cm. in height. It was found at Tel el-Amarna, in the workshop of the chief sculptor Tuthmosis in 1912. It dates back to the 18th dynasty, reign of Akhenaton.
The head belongs to an art model that existed between the first “Amarna” style with its extreme deformations (the so-called exaggerated or stylistic art) and the rather conventional reaction to it (realistic art).
This intermediate stage managed, by modifying the first and reanimation the second, to achieve a skillful synthesis which perfectly reproduces the spirit of the reform. This princess’s head alone would be enough to illustrate this intermediate trend.
The head represents a happy blending of the exaggerated mode of art (elongated skull and long, rather insensitive visage) with the elegant qualities of the portrait of Nefertiti.
The result is a work of the highest artistic quality whose softened expression has not lost any of its spiritual radiance. The statue perhaps represents Meritaten, the eldest daughter of Akhenaton.
Art in ancient Egypt: four colossal statues of Amenhotep IV (Akhenaton)
The colossi of Amenhotep IV differ from traditional osirid statues.
Although they maintain the pose of the deified dead king, and the royal insignia crossed over the chest, yet the king is no longer mummiform but appear either in the costume of the living or even naked without any costume.
The headdress varies between the nemes and the khat, sometimes combined with the double crown.
All of the statues are shown with a royal beard, uraeus on the forehead, and all bear the double cartouche of Aton carved on different parts of the body.
Amenhotep’s statues show very characteristic features of Egypt art including a thin, drawn-out face, long, tapering half closed eyes with heavy eyelids, lengthy delicate nose, massive protruding mouth, exaggeratedly pointed chin, long ears with pierced lobes.
This distinctive iconography of Amenhotep IV creates certain problems and raises many questions regarding both the style and the motives behind it. Some see it beautiful, while others describe it as heavy and overweight.
Some think it realistic; others say it is mannerist (i.e. based on a certain fashion or style), while a third group calls it expressionism.
There can be no doubt that the style in which the king is represented is derived, in the first place, from his own features, yet these features were deliberately exaggerated.
At the same time, the king’s iconography was employed to reflect his own fanatic personality and to translate the new concepts, via the ancient Egypt art, if his religion according to which the king was not only the unique and fundamental intermediary between the Aton and men but also the spiritual and physical representative of this sole deity on earth.
Similar to this deity he should encompass all the divine qualities in existence which explains the diversity of these statues.