Saturday, August 13, 2011

Ancient Egypt (pt. 9)

The reign of Amenhotep IV (during the New Kingdom) is known as the Amarna Period, and it brought huge changes to art.  Amenhotep IV succeeded his father and then broke from the previous traditions.  Along with the help of his wife, the queen Nefertiti, he changed the national religion (polytheism) and proclaimed Aton, the sun god (represented by a gold disc), to be the one, true God.  The pharaoh changed his name to Akhen-aton, which meant "spirit of Aton") and moved the capital to Tell el-Amarna.  Everywhere, the royal family advocated for monotheistic worship of Aton.  Here is Nefertiti worshipping the sun god, the symbol of whom, remember, is a gold disc propelling several downward lines with a tiny hand on the end of each.
Here is an image of the entire royal family underneath the god Aton (both literally and figuratively).
Notice the stark difference from the sculptures of the other pharaohs?  No clenched right fist to demonstrate authoritarian domination.  Akhenaton is shown playing with his children (not exactly a kingly, superior thing to be doing).  This is a personal, almost private family experience being depicted—no great war being shown here, no victorious trampling over of enemies, no massive construction of some great monument, no judgment of criminals.  This is one of the many ways in which art during the Amarna Period is different from that of the rest of Ancient Egyptian history.

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