A Field of Barley, New Kingdom, Dynasty 18, reign of Akhenaten, ca. 1349–1336 b.c.
Limestone with remains of paint; H. 9 1/16 in. (23 cm), W. 20 1/2 in. (52 cm)
Gift of Norbert Schimmel, 1985 (1985.328.24)
Scenes of nature and depictions of animals and plants were always a feature of Egyptian art but assumed special significance during the Amarna period because the solar deity, Aten, was also very much a creator god. This depiction of barley emphasizes the ripeness of the swollen seeds and adds an atmospheric touch by showing the stalks and ears bent and the awns mingled under a gentle breeze. The harvest of grain, a common motif in the traditional decoration of Egyptian nonroyal tombs, took on a ritual connotation in the royal sphere of temple reliefs. During a feast in honor of the fertility god Min—an event that was closely connected with the pharaoh's coronation and its commemorations in later years—the king cut a sheaf of grain with a sickle and presented it to the deity. This detail of a grain field may have been part of such a scene.