Face and upper torso of king Akhenaten

This fragment depicts face and upper torso of Akhenaten with the exaggerated but sensitive features characteristic of representations of this king. The full scene would have shown the king worshiping his sole god, the Aten.

This relief is currently on long-term loan to the Ägyptisches Museum und Papyrussammlung in Berlin.

Face and upper torso of king Akhenaten
Fragment depicts face and upper torso of Akhenaten. Met Museum, New York. On loan to, Ägyptisches Museum und Papyrussammlung, Berlin. 1985.328.3

Akhenaten was a progressive king of the 18th Dynasty, who introduced great changes to ancient Egyptian religion and art. This has led to some scholars suggesting that Akhenaten’s feminine physique may have been a conscious attempt by the king to make a clear distinction between the artistic output of his reign and that of previous periods.

The ‘Amarna revolution’ was not only a religious but also an artistic one. The art of this era is recognizable by its unmistakable sinuous shapes and the singular expressiveness of faces and gestures, which end up surviving, albeit in a less marked manner, in the following epoch.

The Amarna Period lasted less than twenty years: with the advent of the still-child Tutankhaten (‘living image of Aten‘), soon to be renamed Tutankhamun (‘living image of Amun’), traditional cults were restored. Akhetaten was abandoned and became a quarry for building material. The Amarna interlude, however, marked the transition to a new political, cultural and artistic phase.

New Kingdom, 18th Dynasty, c. 1353–1336 B.C.
Originally from Tell el-Amarna (ancient Akhetaten), but usurped by Ramesses II, and discovered within the foundation level of a pylon in Hermopolis.