Trial piece of Akhenaten, on the reverse a horse's head
New Kingdom, Amarna Period
This unfinished study of the head of Akhenaten was one of a number excavated by Flinders Petrie and Howard Carter in 1891–92 from the sculptors' workshops at Tell el-Amarna, the new royal capital founded by Akhenaten. It came to the Museum from the collection of Lord Amherst, who sponsored the excavations. It shows the king in a more naturalistic style. The characteristic attributes of the portraits of the king—long almond-shaped eyes, full lips, elongated jaw and chin, and sloping brow—are present but without the exaggeration associated particularly with the early portraits. These studies may have served as models for or practice pieces by the sculptors carving the reliefs for the huge Aten temples that the king was building in order to worship according to his own unorthodox interpretation of the religion of ancient Egypt; it is also possible that some may have been employed as donation pieces.