The art of Ancient Egypt was highly symbolic and fascinating that intended to keep the history alive. Their religion and beliefs were shown in their art and great works depict god, goddesses and Pharaohs. Each period had a distinctive and astonishing style. In the middle of the New Kingdom, the Egyptians had a new Pharaoh that made some dramatic changes not only in political but also in art styles and this is called the Amarna Period. This research paper aims to discuss the historical, religious and especially the art of Ancient Egypt during the Amarna Period.
This enabled us to know the events and revolutionary works of Akhenaton to replace monotheism from polytheism of Egyptians religion and to acknowledge the essence of Amarna art in our present times. II. Egyptian Kingship About 3000 B. C. , kingship in Ancient Egypt begun when prestige and growth of wealth were at its peak indicated by the discoveries of metal tools and personal ornaments. By that time, poor tribes started revolution and so military protection was needed. The “cities were fortified and kings became prominent” (Chodorow 13).
Kings manipulated wars and often tried to bring cities under their control, they served as war leaders and practiced religious functions viewed as guarantor of the welfare of the city which thought they had special relationship with the gods and prepared inscriptions that immortalized their royal deeds to maintain their authority. Concept/Established Priesthood. Even from the earliest times, religious ceremonies were often held by the royal family. King was considered as “the highest priest, who had sovereign right to perform rituals at any and all temples” (http://www. philae.
nu/akhet/Religion3. html). “Priests had limited and specialized role of activities” and they had “to ensure the cults of god and goddesses along with the various external manifestations in the temples to maintain the integrity of divine presence on earth in the sanctuaries of the temples” (Sauneron 34). Unlike priests nowadays, they were not concern or persuading the people or trying to convert others to their religion, “they were bureaucrat of a sort delegated by the king to perform in his place certain physical rituals necessary for the general welfare” (Sauneron 35).
All of their hieratic appointments were done by the kings and economically supported by receiving offerings and vast landowners. Relationship with the Gods. Egyptian monarchs already had the authority which was to impress the ancient world and depicted that they inherited from prehistoric kings who had special sanctity because of their power to assure prosperity through successful agriculture, thus they performed rituals involving irrigation, soil fertility and land reclamation.
The Pharaoh were believed to manipulate the annual emergence and downfall of life itself (Roberts 84). Under the Old Kingdom, it appears that the “king is the absolute lord of the land” (Roberts 84) and venerated as descendant of the gods. Based on the theory, when the king died, he passed over to the Kingdom Wesir (Osiris) and left the kingship in the hands of his son. He becomes the Living Heru and transformed into a divine status.
Until the Middle Kingdom, only king had an after-life to look forward to Egypt and “always stressed the incarnation of the god in the king even that idea was increasingly exposed by the realities of life in the New Kingdom” (Roberts 85). Influence/Control of Art. The framework for Egyptian arts and architecture was religious and magical. (Najovits 215). The glorification of gods and pharaoh-gods was the main theme of Egyptian art, primarily aim to manipulate the gods and equip for the afterlife (Najovits 218).
They illustrated afterlife and mythology in a coherent manner. Creation of the images of the gods, including the pharaoh gods, illustration of religious beliefs, serving of religious concepts through the building of temples for the appeasement and worship of the gods, practice of funerary cults and the use of amulets were intended for their arts and architecture. III. Amarna Period In the late part of the 18th Dynasty, the most famous periods of Ancient Egypt was ruled by King Amenhotep IV, son of King Amenhotep III and Queen Tiye.
He founded the city Amarna where his revolutionary reforms take place in a very short period. King Amenhotep IV. Succeeded his father Amenhotep III and he attempted a religious revolution called monotheism, worship of one god named Aton (Divine Sundisk). These religious ideas probably originated from the fact that “the sun could be seen rising each day and traveling across the sky, before disappearing each night only to re-appear next morning” thus “seen both incredibly strong and powerful” (Thomas 22).
King Amenhotep IV changed his name to Akhenaton/Akhenaten meaning “It is well with Aton” because he wished to erase the reminiscence of the past and abandoned the old god of his fathers, Amon, whose cult had been the wealthiest and most powerful of Egypt and perhaps tried to recover power taken by the priest of Amon. He devoted his reign in religious revolution and activities and neglected his monarchy duties. Changes to Establishment. Akhenaton “tried to give a new direction to Egyptian religious thought” (Perry 48) and “established cults have been diverted to the cult of the Aten” (Shaw 277).
He closed all temples in Thebes and built a new city in Amarna and “devised a new theology to support his religion” (Chodorow 21). All building activities at Thebes were ceased, traditional gods were banned completely; traditional temples were closed down and the cults of their gods came to a standstill and religious festivals with their processions and public holidays were no longer celebrated. All the income from estates and farms of the Amen temples was diverted to fund the construction of the new city (Thomas 52). Aten/Akhetaton. Egyptians believed that king becomes god when they die, they used to describe them as god Aten.
“Akhenaton said that the god Aten had chosen a site for the new capital for him” (Thomas 48) and he established the new city called Akhetaton/Akhetaten, (Horizon of the Aten). It was “the place where the Aten manifests himself and where he acts through his son, the king, who is the “perfect child of the living Aten” (Shaw 277). Temples to Aten were built at Akhetaten and unlike “traditional temples which contain dark and mysterious inner chambers and cult statues, the Aten temples were open to the sky allowing the sun-disk to display itself in person” (Ryan 161). B. Art
Using art as emphasis. The Egyptian artists in Amarna art wanted to enduringly fix the absolute, the symbolic, the ideal, the real meaning of what things should be where gods and divine pharaohs being portrayed in the ideal situations of stiff solemnity, power and youth. Historians noted that “the idealizing representation of kings is based on the desire to lift the ‘good gods’ (the kings), sons and likenesses of the gods” (Najovits 218). Amarna art represented detail idealization of the world and people in a system that encompassed everything from the beginning – creation to the afterlife.
Akhenaton put much emphasis on the fact that he was the “mother who gives birth to everything who had created his subjects with the ka (creator-god)” (Shaw 281). New style. Akhenaton changed the traditional artistry of Egypt where architecture, sculpture and paintings focused on canonical pharaonic portraits. “The artistic style made a sudden transition from the traditional Egyptian style of portraying people with ideal, perfect physiques to a new and rather jarring style” (Lorenz).
The effeminate body with curving contours, long face with full lips, heavy eyelids, misshapen body with weak arms, narrow waist, protruding belly, wide hips and fatty thighs created arguments among historians. They think that he “suffered from some kind of illness or syndrome which caused his odd appearance” (Lorenz) and that his “portrait is a deliberate artistic reaction against the established style, paralleling the suppression of traditional religion” (Kleiner 78).
Akhenaton showed “himself in a warm family scenes with his wife and children, portraying himself and the rest of the royal family in a much more human and naturalistic manner” (Lorenz). The scene of the royal family, Akhenaton, Nefertiti and their three children Merytaten (being kissed by his father), Meketaten (sitting on her mother’s lap) and Aknkhesenpaaten (baby on Nefertiti’s shoulder). Both Nefertiti (Akhenaton’s wife) and Tiye (mother of Akhenaton) figured prominently in the art and life of Amarna age. Queen Tiye regularly appeared in art beside Amenhotep III during his reign as well as during the reign of Akhenaton.
Queen Nefertiti frequently appears in the decoration of the Aton temple at Karnak who looked like clones of Akhenaton and sometimes wears pharaonic headgear. Pictures showing husband and wife embracing or offering each other flowers continued until the reign of Tutankhamen. Amarna period most probably associated with the images of Aten worship scenes. The Sundisk where the Pharoah and Queen offer flowers to Aten and their two eldest daughters bask shaking sistrums, is one of the most common distinction of Amarna period.
Analysis. The reign of Pharaoh Akhenaton depicted a relaxed, affectionate pharaoh and purely human emotional themes and everyday, secular subjects became usual and that was a revolution in its own right. According to historians, “the Fifth Dynasty and Amarna period must be the two finest periods in Egyptian art, it was then that the artist best managed to combine theological obligation to depict idealized essence with natural inclination to depict reality” (Najovits 233).
Despite the criticism obtained, the art had never been so dramatic and meaningful that showed formalistic conventions and attempted the truth of the system they represented. Another feature of Amarna style is the “extraordinary sense of movement and speed, a general looseness and freedom of expression that was to have a lasting influence on Egyptian art for centuries after the Amarna Period had come to an end” (Shaw 282). C. Compare/Contrast With previous establishment. Egyptians artists regularly ignored the endless variations in body types of real human beings.
Painters and sculptors did not sketch their subjects from life but applied a strict canon or systems of proportions that lasted for thousand of years (Kleiner 69). Before the Amarna period, pharaohs concentrated on building temples and great pyramid tombs made of mud-brick, stones and woods. They have huge statues and reliefs painted in minute polychrome, paintings of sensual women, hunting scenes and peoples in their everyday tasks were widespread which were intended to provide company to the deceased in the other world. Evolution of Art during Amarna.
Inscriptions revealed that it was Akhenaton who instructed his artist in his own new style. “Akhenaton’s new movement had given rise to a new and very realistic style of art which emphasized even the king’s physical deformities” (Boadt 159) unlike the normal image of showing the kings and important people as ideal persons in good health and great looks. In the early years, human figures were depicted with specific proportions contrary to normal figures and there was a time when images were the same like clones but soon outmoded.
Later, it becomes less extreme with some artwork returning almost to normal. The depiction of the king becomes more graceful evolving into a softer, more naturalistic style. IV. Opinions/Observations Observations of Art of Amarna Period. King Akhenaton’s reign was too short to bring his reform to success both in political and religious through expression in Egyptian arts. It centered on the sun-disc and its life-giving rays but it practiced focused on the cult of the pharaoh himself.
Yet it failed soon after Akhenaton’s death, it was to have everlasting effects, the attempt to destruct the old cult, and to eliminate gods from any monuments, shows the monotheistic direction of the new faith as well as transition of Egyptian art in a well distinguished manner. Personal Opinions. I believed that King Akhenaton’s unique and amazing style in expressing himself through deformed and sexless images greatly influenced the evolution of modern art. He formulated his own style of abstract images that made him popular not during his times but in our contemporary times.
I think if he had worshiped his god without persecuting the cult of his fathers, may be the new religion will still be practiced and supported by the Egyptians. The fact that he was the King who can manipulate things and can even deceive the minds of his people, he ignored the voice of his people of freedom in religion that led to the end of his legacy that can be learned when his successor Tutankhamen, returned to worshiping the old gods. V. Conclusion Amarna Period was the time of King Akhenaton revolution against political and religious tradition of Ancient Egypt.
He remarkably changed the conventional style of Egyptian art from building of mysterious temples and tombs to an intimate and expressionistic statues and paintings of himself and his family that demonstrate sophistication and creative freedom which was indeed revolutionary at that time. Works Cited Boadt, Lawrence (1984). Reading the Old Testament : An Introduction. New Jersey : Paulist Press. Brewer, Douglas J. and Emily Teeter (2007). Egypt and the Egyptians. United Kingdom : Cambrigde University Press. Chodorow, Stanley, et. al.
(1994). The Mainstream of civilization. 6th ed. Fort Worth, Texas : The Harcourt Press. Kleiner, Fred S. , Christin J. Mamiya and Helen Gardner (2005). Gardner’s Art Through the Ages. 12th ed. Belmont, California : Wadsworth/Thomson Learning. Lorenz, Megaera. January 15, 2000. The Art of the Amarna Period. http://www. heptune. com/art. html Najovitz, Simson (2004). Egypt, trunk of tree : a modern survey of an ancient land. New York : Algora Publishing. Perry, Marvin (1989). A History of the World. Boston, Massachusetts : Houghton Mifflin
Company. Roberts, J. M. (1987). The Penguin History of the World. New York : Penguin Books. Ryan, Donald P. (2002). The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Ancient Egypt. New York : Alpha Books. Sauneron, Serge (2000). The Priests in Ancient Egypt. New York : Cornell University Press. Shaw, Ian (Ed. ) (2003). The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt. United Kingdom : Oxford University Press. Thomas, Susanna (2003). Akhenaten and Tutankhamen : The Religious Revolution. New York : Rosen Publishing. (http://www. philae. nu/akhet/Religion3. html
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