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Akhenaten Sacrificing a Duck

Period:
New Kingdom, Amarna Period
Dynasty:
Dynasty 18
Reign:
reign of Akhenaten
Date:
ca. 1353–1336 B.C.
Geography:
From Egypt, Middle Egypt, el-Amarna probably; Hermopolis possibly
Medium:
Limestone, paint
Dimensions:
H. 24.5 cm (9 5/8 in); w. 54.5 cm (21 7/16 in); th. 7 cm (2 3/4 in)
Credit Line:
Gift of Norbert Schimmel, 1985
Accession Number:
1985.328.2
  • Description

    The pharaoh Akhenaten believed that light was the only divine power in the universe and that the solar disk was the means through which this power came into the world. Akhenaten's god, the Aten, is portrayed through the symbol of a solar disk with rays ending in small human hands. This Aten symbol serves as a large-scale hieroglyph meaning "light." In representations of Akhenaten, one of these hands holds an ankh hieroglyph, the symbol of life, to his nose.
    On this block from a temple relief, Akhenaten, recognizable by his elongated features, holds a duck toward the Aten. With one hand he wrings the bird's neck before offering it to the god. Although early depictions of Akhenaten often appear strangely exaggerated, later in his reign sculptors attempted a more naturalistic style, emphasizing a sense of space and movement. Akhenaten's hands here are grasping and straining to hold the struggling duck. Such a scene, capturing a single moment, would never have been attempted in an earlier period. However, Akhenaten's right hand is twisted so that all five fingers can be seen, a pose that conforms to the Egyptian convention of presenting each part of the body as completely as possible.
    In this relief, the artist has cut the outlines of the figures into the surface in a technique called sunk relief. Sunk relief appears mostly on the exterior of buildings, where the outlines cast shadows, emphasizing the sunlight. During the Amarna period almost all relief was executed in this technique.

  • Provenance

    Norbert Schimmel Collection, by 1964, published and exhibited frequently from that time. Donated to the Museum by Mr. Schimmel, 1985.

  • See also
    What
    Where
    When
    In the Museum
    Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History
    MetPublications
544056

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