One Has Come." Masterpieces of Portraiture from the Egyptian
The exhibition in the Picket Room of the Winter Palace (Hall N 196) prepared by the State Hermitage in cooperation with the Egyptian Museum and papyrus collection of Berlin. The exhibits displayed at the exhibition were taken away from Germany in time of the Second World War and were kept in the State Hermitage until 1958; they were returned to the Egyptian Museum of Berlin the same year.
Three sculptural heads from the workshop of Tuthmosis created in the middle of the 14th century BC are presented at the exhibition. They are: Head of Young Nefertiti (sandstone, colouring); Head of Nefertiti as a Mature Woman (granodiorite); Head of the princess, daughter of Nefertiti and Akhenaten (sandstone), as well as Head of Amasis (grey wacke) created in the middle of the 6th century BC.
In the middle of the 14th century BC Egyptian King Amenhotep IV drastically
changed state ideology. He prohibited to worship traditional gods and introduced
cult of a single god - Aten that was envisaged as visible sun
disc crossing the sky. For a long time science considered that reform
to be the first attempt in history of monotheism introduction, but now
it is clear that things were different, easier and more complicated at the same
time. Egyptian kings were always considered to be of divine nature
but a significant part of that divinity was lost in the New Kingdom while
the significance of gods, especially of ‘capital’ Amon, increased greatly.
Amenhotep III, the father of Amenhotep IV, was able to regain the status
of absolute deity by means of complex system of rituals. Within the scope
of the new world view he himself was acting as primary god Atem while
his son and his wife Nefertiti were presented as first generation divine
beings, Shu and Tefnut, begotten by him; in addition sun disc Anton was
his manifestation. Amenhotep IV surpassed his father - after he had become
his joint ruler he reduced the whole world view to relations between
In order to be completely independent from old nobility and priesthood
Ehnaton founded new capital Akhetaton (Horizon of Aten that is the place
where the Sun rises). First of all, the city represented cultic centre
with numerous temples where in the open courtyards the king made daily
sacrifices to Aten, who was pouring out his
Ideology of Ehnaton found its reflection in art notably not only in its content but also in its artistic component. A number of temple statues that reached us from the very first years depict Ehnaton so emphatically ugly that the style was called caricatural. The king has broad feminine hips, pendulous belly, big breasts; the face is matching the body - drawn with equine lower part, long nose, exaggerated sized eyes, mouth and ears; the neck is arched unnaturally. Feminity of some features is explained by the fact that the king was depicted as Shu whose part was assigned to the son of Amenhotep III at the beginning of joint reign and Shu was hermaphrodite, however the meaning of other distortions remains unclear. In later images of Ehnaton we can see the same features but in a noticeably moderate way. Iconography of the king spread on to his followers, from his reign we got great number of images of men and women with thin ankles and heavy hips, swollen bellies, long fingers, drawn skulls and droopy chins. Unnaturalness and affectation of style is partially compensated for by dynamism of movements and wealth of details uncharacteristic for Egypt.
In 1912 expedition of the German Orient Society under the guidance of Ludwig Borchardt that was working in the southern suburb of Akhetaton found sculptural workshop where over fifty wonderful pieces of plastique were preserved, mainly heads and faces of Ehnaton and his wife Nefertiti, their daughters and several unknown people. Some of them differ incomparably by moderate style and kind warmth; they belong to the best portrait images ever made in Egypt. Traditionally it is considered that the workshop belonged to the sculptor whose name was Tuthmosis and he is attributed to be the author of these unique works, however, identification based on one accidental inscription is hardly reliable. Since the workshop was left with all the contents so perhaps it happened after Ehnaton’s death, when Akhetaton was abandoned, so in some specified sense, thereby, these portraits are the result of the processes that took place in the art of the sun worshipping capital.
The exhibition curator is Andrey Bolshakov, doctor of science
in history, head of the section of the Ancient
Orient of the State Hermitage. The exhibition is accompanied
by academic illustrated catalogue (The State Hermitage Publishing
House, 2009), the author of the catalogue is Andrey
Bolshakov. Scientific conference Petersburg Egyptology Readings 2009
was timed to the exhibition. It takes place in the museum