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Work Amenophis IV

Department of Egyptian Antiquities: The New Kingdom (circa 1550 to circa 1069 BC)

Le roi Aménophis IV-Akhénaton

© 2006 Musée du Louvre / Christian Décamps

Egyptian Antiquities
The New Kingdom (circa 1550 to circa 1069 BC)

Aït-Kaci Lili

This pillar fragment comes from a building constructed east of the Temple of Amon at Karnak. It represents the face of Amenophis IV-Akhenaten, in the easily-recognizable Amarna style. In the early years of his reign, the Pharaoh imposed the monotheistic cult of the god Re, whose visible manifestation on earth was the sun-disk, Aten. At the same time, he changed his name from Amenophis to Akhenaten.

From Thebes to the new city of Akhetaten

Amenophis IV, the son of Amenophis III and his favored queen, Tiy, came to the throne of Egypt in 1372 BC and reigned for seventeen years. After spending four years in Thebes, the city of his predecessors, he built a new capital, Akhetaten, in Middle Egypt. Amenophis IV made the new city the center of an official religion devoted to the god Re, who communicated his beneficent power to Earth via the rays of the sun-disk, Aten.
In the early years of his reign, Amenophis IV ordered the construction of a sanctuary dedicated to the sun falcon, Re-Horakhty, east of the Temple of Amon at Karnak. The immense peristyle courtyard featured pillars decorated with colossal images of the Pharaoh, in the so-called "Osirian" pose: standing, legs together, with arms crossed on the chest and a royal scepter in each hand. The portrait is a fragment from one of these pillars.

A new artistic style

The figure corresponds closely to its architectural setting (this was a colussus carved on one side of a pillar), and respects the conventional pose and attributes of the Pharaoh. Its style and inscriptions, however, distinguish it from all other classical royal portraits. It is easily identified as a work in the Amarna style, corresponding to the reign of Amenophis IV-Akhenaten.
Several documents record that the Pharaoh himself drew up new stylistic rules for his sculptors to follow. The new canon is represented perfectly here. The Pharaoh's body is no longer that of an athlete, expressing the power of his function; on the contrary, the shoulders are wide but flat; the chest is almost feminine; the waist high and narrow; the hips thick and wide, and the stomach low and round. The face is also typical of the new, more naturalistic tendency: the features are defined by straight, angular lines and flat surfaces, contrasting with softer, rounded forms. Its elongated shape is accentuated by a false beard that extends down to the chest.

The sun-god

The portrait's subject is identified by a number of cartouche inscriptions. The hieroglyphics do not mention the Pharaoh by name, but refer instead to the god he represented on Earth: "Re-Horakhty appeared on the horizon as Shu, who is in the disk."
This colossus therefore represents the Pharaoh and his dynasty as the divinely-appointed incarnation of the sun-god.


Ch. BARBOTIN "Le Nouvel Empire au temps d'Akhénaton et de Néfertiti", Fiche-Visite-Louvre, salle 25.
J.L. de CENIVAL "La révolution d'AménophisIV-Akhénaton", Feuillet-Louvre 2-10
Is. FRANCO "les grands pharaons et leurs oeuvres", Paris 2001
G. ANDREU, M.H. RUTSCHOWSKAYA, C. ZIEGLER "Ancient Egypt at the Louvre," Paris 1997

Technical description

  • Le roi Aménophis IV-Akhénaton

    vers 1350 avant J.-C. (an 3 à 5 du règne)

    fragment de pilier d'un édifice bâti à l'est de Karnak

  • grès autrefois peint

    H. : 1,37 m. ; L. : 0,88 m. ; Pr. : 0,60 m.

  • E 27112

  • Egyptian Antiquities

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