THE REIGN OF THE BOY-KING AND THE RESTORATION
The origin, royal accession and death of Tutankhamen are, to this day, very disputed among specialists. Recent archaeological and scientific discoveries have shed new light, sometimes adding more hypothesis than consensus on these aspects.
Born in Tell elAmarna, and then known as Tutankhaten, he was most probably the son of Akhenaten. A limestone block found in Hermopolis and dating from the reign of Akhenaten contains a hieroglyphic text describing him as ‘King’s son of [his] body whom he loves, Tutankhuaten’ (M. Eaton-Krauss, The Unknown Tutankhamun, London, 2016, p. 3), But the question remains if he was born of Nefertiti, or his secondary wife Kiya. Although often criticised, DNA analysis made in the last decade have proposed that Tutankhamen was the son of the man whose remains lay in the coffin found in the tomb KV55 (op. cit., p. 7), thought to be Akhenaten. His mother is absent from any noteworthy record, and it seems likely that she had died before his accession (op. cit., p. 11).
Nearly all specialists agree that a woman briefly occupied the throne after the death of Akhenaten: Ankhetkheperure, beloved of Akhenaten, Neferneferuaten. That she was in fact Nefertiti, or her daughter Meritaten, is still open for debate. It is believed that Tutankhaten was only 9 years old when he acceded the throne. A crook and a flail found in his tomb (object no. 269f and 44u respectively) are child-size (op. cit. p. 18). During the reign of his father Akhenaten, the focus turned towards a single god, the Aten or sun-disk, and the worship of any other was abandoned, making him the first monotheistic king in history. But as soon as he passed away, the rehabilitation of the cult of Amen and the other traditional deities started. It had therefore begun even before the accession of Tutankhaten to the throne, but his reign saw the completion of a formidable number of projects (op. cit., p. 33), and to reinforce the return of the orthodoxy, the king changed his name to Tutankhamen in year 3 of his reign. An important monument from this period, made of quartzite, was found by George Legrain in 1905 at Karnak, The Restoration Stela, which irrevocably signalled the end of the Amarna period on a political and religious level. The art from Amarna on the contrary would continue to live through the artists and workshops who had moved to Thebes and fashioned the sculptures of the restoration program.
END OF A DYNASTY AND DISCOVERY OF THE CENTURY
The speculations regarding how Tutankhamen died are numerous, some grounded on scientific analysis, some from interpretation of archaeological remains: chariot accident, broken leg followed by infection, congenital diseases, assassination. It is understood that he died young, in the 9th year of his reign, probably at the age of 18, and that he died unexpectedly and abruptly. His widow, Ankhesenamen then sent a letter to the King of the Hittites, the powerful and sometimes menacing kingdom from Anatolia, asking him to send his son to become the King of Egypt. She was afraid and, probably with Horemheb in mind, writes that she would not take one of her own servants as husband. But the Hittite prince died on his way to Egypt (if not murdered), and never stepped foot in the Nile Valley (cf. E. Freed (ed.), Pharaohs of the Sun, Boston, 1999, p. 183).
As the 18th was coming to an end, Ay, the Vizir of Tutankhamen, now an old man, married Ankhesenamen, and reigned for four years only. Horemheb, the almighty General of the Armies, emerged and claimed the crown to become the last Pharaoh of the 18th dynasty. His reign (1319-1292 B.C.) bridges the end of the chaos of the Amarna Period and the rise of the ambitious 19th Dynasty.
The discovery in 1922 by Howard Carter and the Earl of Carnavon of the nearly intact tomb of Tutankhamen was a worldwide event, and sparked a renewed interest in ancient Egypt. The location of the tomb had been lost already in antiquity, probably buried under stones coming from subsequent tomb building. At the end of the 20th Dynasty, burials were systematically dismantled but Tutankhamen’s tomb was overlooked: paradoxically, being forgotten allowed for the greatest discovery of the 20th century.
It took 10 years for Howard Carter to excavate, conserve and record the 5,398 objects found. According to Nicholas Reeves, 80% of the funerary equipment originated from the female pharaoh Neferneferuaten, including the famous gold mask, originally engraved for ‘the Beloved of Akhenaten’, possibly his wife Nefertiti.
ART : A LIVING IMAGE OF THE KING – THE AMARNA ARTISTIC LEGACY
One of the aspects of the restoration program was the creation of well over fifty sculptures of Amen, dated by an inscription, or datable based on the iconography and style of the post-Amarna period (M. Eaton- Krauss, op. cit., p. 53), and which the present lot is part of. Amen’s iconography comprises his peculiar crown, which covers his head from his forehead to the nape of his neck, leaving the ears exposed; shaped like a truncated cone, its circumference increasing towards the top, which is slightly domed, and topped by a pair of tall falcon feathers. Four sculptures, either standing or seated, show the god with child-like physiognomy and were most probably made during the early years of his reign, see the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, acc. no.50.6, for an example in fine limestone, and the Ny Carlsberg Glyptothek, Copenhagen for another in granodiorite, inv. no. AEIN 1285. Statues depicting Amen alone were numerous, and so were statues showing the god together with the king.
First and foremost, it is the style of the face that blurs the border between an idealized representation of a god, and a royal portrait. The idea of using the king’s likeness on the representation of a worshipped deity was part of the traditional propaganda used by the ruler: to be shown in the guise of the powerful deity, with all the signs of divine power, which would therefore by attributed to him in his earthly reign (S. Schoske and D. Wildung, Gott und Götter im Alten Ägypten, Mainz, 1992, p. 24).
In Thebes, Tutankhamen and his successors Ay and Horemheb erected numerous statues of Amen. But establishing a precise date for them remains difficult as Horemheb obliterated all traces of Akhenaten and anyone connected to him in his Damnatio Memoriae campaign, and substituted his name on many of his predecessor’s statues. The features of the present lot are reminiscent of Amen statues in the temples of Luxor and Karnak, subsequently usurped by Horemheb, but dating from the time of Tutankhamen (S. Schoske and D. Wildung, ibid.).
As with most Egyptian stone sculptures, there is a slight asymmetry in this head: the left half of the face is fuller and more idealised than the right, and the right eye is larger than the left. (S. Schoske and D. Wildung, ibid.). Amen statues made during the reign of Tutankhamen such as our head show traits most closely identified with the Amarna style: soft, fleshy face with high cheek bones, sfumato eyes, and full
lips reminiscent of Akhenaten in particular (cf. E. Freed (ed.), Pharaohs of the Sun, Boston, 1999, p. 188). It is ironic that the successors of Akhenaten, in trying to eradicate his ‘heresy’, carried on the naturalistic style engendered during his reign, and most evocative of his revolutionary vision.
It is worth mentioning two comparable works: a head of Amen in diorite (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 07.228.34, illustrated above) presenting a similar deep depression between the carved eyebrows and the slanted eyes which, together with the full mouth and downturned corners of the mouth are the features of Tutankhamen; and a seated statue of Amen in diorite protecting the king in the Louvre (inv. no. E 11609) which, although usurped by Horemheb, still bears two cartouches of Tutankhamen (R. Freed, op. cit., cat. nos 245 and 243 respectively).