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Colossal Statues of Akhenaten

Colossal Statues of Akhenaten

Colossal Statues of Akhenaten

This Statues of Akhenaten depicts the pharaoh, also known as Amenophis IV or Amenhotep IV, in a distorted representation of the human form. Akhenaten is represented with a distorted physique not present elsewhere in the artwork of Ancient Egypt. He is portrayed with exaggerated facial features, such as a long nose, hanging chin and thick lips. Traditionally, pharaohs are depicted as idealistically heroic in Egyptian art. These departures from cultural norms that occur with the colossi of Akhenaten have, therefore, sparked numerous debates among scholars. Indeed, no artist would have voluntarily produced such an unusual image of the king without it being directed by the pharaoh himself. One theory suggests that the pharaoh wished to separate himself from ordinary people and associate himself solely with divinity and the Royal Family.

Depictions of members of the royal family were extremely stylised, with elongated heads, protruding stomachs, broad hips, thin arms and legs, and exaggerated facial features. Significantly, and for the only time in the history of Egyptian royal art, Akhenaten’s family are shown taking part in decidedly naturalistic activities, showing affection for each other, and being caught in mid-action. Nefertiti begins to be depicted with features specific to her. Questions remain whether the beauty of Nefertiti is portraiture or idealism.

This statue is believed to be from early in his reign, which lasted from about 1353 to 1336 BCE. Discovered during excavations in Karnak in Thebes in 1925, it was found broken into many fragments. There are various theories about the destruction of the statues, one of which suggest that later pharaohs had the figures dismantled. A second theory suggests that Akhenaten himself had the statues torn down with a change of planning in the construction of the Aten temple.

Akhenaten

Akhenaten ruled for 17 years and is famous for abandoning traditional Egyptian polytheism and introducing worship centred on the Aten. Akhenaten tried to shift his culture from Egypt’s traditional religion, but the shifts were not widely accepted. After his death, his monuments were dismantled and hidden, his statues were destroyed, and his name excluded from the king lists, and traditional religious practice was gradually restored.

Later rulers without direct of succession from the 18th Dynasty and who wanted to found a new dynasty, discredited Akhenaten and his immediate successors, referring to Akhenaten himself as “the enemy” or “that criminal” in the records. Thus Akhenaten was all but lost from history until the discovery during the 19th century of the site of Akhetaten, the city he built and designed for the worship of Aten, at Amarna.

Modern interest in Akhenaten and his queen Nefertiti comes partly from his connection with Tutankhamun, and from the unique style of the arts he patronised, and partly from ongoing interest in the religion, he attempted to establish.

Explore Egyptian Art

Colossal Statues of Akhenaten

  • Title:                     Colossal Statues of Akhenaten
  • Year:                     1350-1334 v.C.
  • Material:               Stone
  • Discovered:          1925
  • Find Site:              Aten Temple at Karnak
  • Museum:              Egyptian Museum, Cairo

Reflections

  • Do questions remain?
  • Everyone loves a mystery.
  • The mystery of Akhenaten.

Explore the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities

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“For the benefit of the flowers, we water the thorns, too.”
– Egyptian Proverbs

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Photo Credits: 1) CC BY-SA 2.5, Link

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