House altar of Akhenaten and his family

This small stele of Akhenaten and his family, probably used as a home altar. It gives an seldom opportunity to view a scene from the private live of the king and queen.

We see Akhenaten and Nefertiti shown with the three oldest of their five daughters. While the daughters are being held and caressed by their parents.

House altar of King Akhenaten and his family
Akhenaten, who left the ‘golden city’ for a new capital at Amarna, encouraged a startlingly different style of Egyptian art. Here he is shown with his wife, Nefertiti, and three daughters.

The placement of the god Aten in the center of the scene reminds of the official monotheistic religion in the Amarna period.

Aten is shown as a sun-disc with sun-rays ending in hands proffering ‘ankh’-signs (life-signs) to the royal couple. Only through the intercession of Akhenaten and Nefertiti could ordinary people partake in the divine salvation.

The body forms shown on the relief, the overlong proportions, wide hips. The legs are thin and the necks are curved forward. Typically are of the early Amarna artistic style.

House altar of the ‘Holy Family’

The famous altar relief from a house in Amarna shows Akhenaten and his family, his wife Nefertiti and three of their daughters under the solar disc of Aten. The tips of the sun’s rays are shown as hands extending symbols of life towards the royal couple.

The features of both the king and the queen have been drawn in a new exaggerated style. Traditionally rulers were depicted as being both youthful and handsome, in order to document the power of the kingly state.

Akhenaten and Nefertiti distanced themselves from this ideal and had themselves portrayed realistically, and even, during the early years of their reign, ill-favouredly.

A no less extreme break with tradition is the representation of the daughters with heads which are elongated at the back as a manifestation of the life-giving power of the sun god.

This representation, together with the caricature-like overdrawing of the faces, is a purely stylistic device and is not an indication of hereditary or intentionally produced deformities.

New Kingdom, 18th Dynasty, Amarna Period, reign of Akhenaten, ca. 1353-1336 BC. Now in the Egyptian Museum, Berlin. ÄM 14145