The Joy of Museums

Finding Meaning in a Museum

Relief Portrait of Akhenaten

ReliefPortraitOfAkhenaten01

This “Relief Portrait of Akhenaten” depicts Pharaoh Akhenaten, previously known as Amenhotep IV, who was an Ancient Egyptian pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty.

The ‘excessive’ style at the beginning of the Amarna period is obvious with this “Relief Portrait of Akhenaten”. The thin face, heavy narrow eyelids, slanting eyes, long, hanging chin, long nose, full lips as well as the forward curved neck all characterize the early representations of King Akhenaton. The skin folds that run from the side of the nose to the corners of the mouth and on the neck are typical of the Amarna style. The contrast of soft forms against the strong contours of the face have been expertly captured by the artist.

Pharaoh Akhenaten ruled for 17 years and died during 1336 – 1334 BC. He is famous in history for abandoning traditional Egyptian polytheism and introducing an early form of monotheistic worship centred on the Aten. Early inscriptions liken the Aten to the sun and later official language avoids calling the Aten a god, giving the solar deity a status above mere gods.

La salle dAkhenaton (1356-1340 av J.C.) (Musée du Caire) (2076972086)

Panel depicting Akhenaten worshiping the Aten, with rays emanating from the solar disk.

Akhenaten decreed a change from traditional religion to the worship of Aten. However after his death, the old priest regained control and returned to the old gods. His monuments were dismantled and hidden, his statues were terminated and his name was not to be included in the king lists. After the death of his son, Tutankhamun, new rulers discredited Akhenaten and his immediate successors, referring to Akhenaten himself as “the enemy” or “that criminal” in archival records.

Akhenaten queen, Nefertiti and his son Tutankhamun are also famous historical figures thanks to historical artefacts from the Amarna period.

ReliefPortraitOfAkhenaten02

Another relief portrait of Akhenaten

Some of the Amarna masterpieces that are part of the “Egyptian Museum of Berlin” that can be seen at the Neues Museum or the Altes Museum located at “Museum Island” include:

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Essential Facts:

  • Title:                     Relief Portrait of Akhenaten
  • Date:                     1340 BCE
  • Period:                 New Kingdom, Amarna period, 18th dynasty
  • Material:             Limestone
  • Dimensions:      15 cm
  • Discovered:        1912: Amarna, Egypt
  • Museums:           Egyptian Museum of Berlin, Neues Museum or Altes Museum, Berlin

Akhenaten Facts:

  • Name:                      Pharaoh Akhenaten, previously known as Amenhotep IV
  • Role:                         Pharaoh
  • Reigned:                  Approx. 1353–1336 BC
  • Famous Consort:  Nefertiti
  • Famous Son:          Tutankhamun
  • Historical Significance:  Attempted to introduce an early version of monotheism

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“We should consider every day lost on which we have not danced at least once.”
Friedrich Nietzsche

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Photo Credit: 1) By Keith Schengili-Roberts (Own Work (photo)) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5-2.0-1.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons 2) By UnknownJean-Pierre Dalbéra from Paris, France [Public domain or CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons 3) By Keith Schengili-Roberts (Own Work (photo)) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5-2.0-1.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons