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13 / The Body

Amenhotep IV (Akhenaten) and Nefertiti
Amenhotep IV (Akhenaten) and Nefertiti
Artist / Origin Unknown artist, Tell el-Amarna, Egypt
Region: Africa
Date New Kingdom, Amarna Period, 1345–1337 BCE
Material Painted limestone
Medium: Sculpture
Dimensions H: 8 3.4 in. (22.2 cm.), W: 4 3/4 in. (12.3 cm.), D: 3 7/8 in. (9.8 cm.)
Location Musée du Louvre, Paris, France
Credit Courtesy of Giraudon/ Bridgeman Art Library International

expert perspective

Deborah VischakLecturer of Art and Archaeology, Princeton University

Amenhotep IV (Akhenaten) and Nefertiti

» Unknown artist, Tell el-Amarna, Egypt

expert perspective

Deborah Vischak Deborah Vischak Lecturer of Art and Archaeology, Princeton University

The reason that art in many periods looks quite carefully similar to what came before or the changes tend to be rather gradual or subtle is very intentional. It’s not the result of not knowing what else to do. They’re purposely trying to maintain consistency with everything that came before—stability, the glory of Egypt, the appeasing the gods. And so maintaining the image tradition is part of doing that. So you come to a ruler like Akhenaten who is less interested in tradition and more interested in change and is quite radical—establishes an entirely new capital city, tries to create this whole new religious structure. It would be, I think, quite unusual, or quite surprising if the art did not shift to show the changes in the society and the religion and the culture that were occurring there. The idea that he would maintain the image system in the exact form while changing everything else is sort of not understanding what the image system is there to do.” 

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