Figure of Akhenaten Holding an Offering Table

This painted sandstone figure of King Akhenaten contains many androgynous physical characteristics which have led to contemporary speculation on Akhenaten’s gender and sexuality, health and religious beliefs.

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. It has further been suggested that this new androgynous form was an attempt to portray the pharaoh as a combination of both the male and female divine.

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, Amarna Period, reign of Akhenaten, ca. 1353-1336 BC. Now in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. AN1924.162