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what is the name of the piece in the image linked below. who is represented in it? what are some features that differ in this work from previous egyptian art? finally, what does this approach / depiction of the figures mean about egyptian society and religion at the time it was created?
the piece in the image linked below is a sunken relief stele called akhenaten, nefertiti and three doctors that was created between 1353-1335 bc. the person on the left of the stele is akhenaten, the pharaoh of egypt during the 18­th dynasty, and the person on the right is his wife nefertiti. there are also three miniature human figures that represent three of their daughters; i find it fascinating that the three figures don’t appear to be proportioned like children and instead, they are merely adult figures shrunk in size. the sun in the top center of the stele is also representative; it serves to represent the sun god aton.

this piece of art differs vastly from previous works of egyptian art. one of the biggest ways this work of art differs is that it shows the pharaoh and his family and in a very domestic setting. from what we’ve learned so far, it seems to me that rulers were usually only represented in ways that showcased their prestige and importance, such as in battle or interacting with gods. this work of art is very humanizing for the pharaoh because it shows him in an everyday situation and he is even showing affection towards one of his daughters. the physical depiction of akhenaten is also different from how rulers had previously been portrayed. as with many portraits of akhenaten, he is shown to have a slightly sagging pouch for a stomach, very thin arms, and his large hips/thighs are very similar to those of his wife. prior to this, pharaohs and any other important male figures were always portrayed as very strong and typically masculine and their bodies were sculpted to represent this. the way aton is represented in this piece of art is also different from the way gods were usually represented. gods were usually represented in animal or human form, whereas aton is represented by a sun disk in this image.

all of these differences parallel to differences in the egyptian society at this time. when akhenaton became pharaoh, he disregarded all the previously worshipped gods and completely devoted himself to aton, who he declared to be the only god. aton’s role as sun god is shown by the use of a sun to represent him in this work of art. the sun was most likely included in this intimate portrait because akhenaton claimed that he was the “son and sole prophet of aton.” (kleiner 76) it could signify that he believes his close relationship with aton resembles the relationship he has with his family. this portrait also depicts akhenaton’s rebellion of old beliefs and ideals through his physical appearance and the intimate nature of the portrait. both of these aspects of this work of art were considered very revolutionary at the time.
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