Stele of Sculptor Bek with his wife Taheret

The stele of sculptor Bek the chief royal artist is itself a very distinctive product, with two figures contained within a naos but carved almost three-dimensionally. If, as would seem very possible, Bek himself carved the stele, this would be the oldest self-portrait known. The inscription of this stele also mentions him being taught by Akhenaten.

Bek was succeeded as Chief Sculptor by Thutmose (creator of the famous bust of Nefertiti). Bek or Bak (Egyptian name for “Servant”) was the first chief royal sculptor during the reign of king Akhenaten. His father Men held the same position under Akhenaten’s father Amenhotep III; his mother Roi was a woman from Heliopolis. Bek grew up in Heliopolis, an important cult center of Ra.

Stele of the sculptor Bek Self-Portrait with his wife Taheret
Stele of the sculptor Bek Self-Portrait with his wife Taheret. Neues Museum, Berlin

The young prince Amenhotep (who became king Akhenaten) had a palace here, and it is likely that his religious views were formed in part by the Heliopolitan teachings. Bek followed his lord to Akhet-Aten, the city founded by Akhenaten. He oversaw the construction of the great temple statues of the king and the opening of the Aswan and Gebel es-Silsila stone quarries, from where the stone was transported.

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