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Current time:0:00Total duration:5:03

Video transcript

so around 1350 BC everything changed in Egyptian art we think about Egyptian art we don't think of change that's true the Old Kingdom the Middle Kingdom the New Kingdom and the transitional periods between art is consistent for almost 3000 years but there is this radical break right around 1350 and it's because the ruler Akhenaten changes the state religion he changes it from the worship of God Amun to a new God a Sun God called Aten so he actually changes his own name to Akhenaten which means Aten is pleased look the key is he makes him his wife the only representatives of Aten on earth and so he upsets the entire priesthood of Egypt by making him and his wife the only ones with access to this new God Aten and in fact after Akhenaten dies Egypt will return to its traditional religion so this period is a very brief episode in Egyptian history but it also marks a real shift in style and the small stone plaque that we're looking at this sunken relief carving which would have been placed in a private domestic environment is a perfect example of those stylistic changes but it would have been an altar in someone's home where they would have seen Akhenaten and his wife Nefertiti and their relationship to the God Aten this has always been one of my favorite sculptures it's so informal compared to most Egyptian art we really have a sense of a couple and their relationship with one another and their relationship with their children and love and domesticity so let's take a close look on the left you have Akhenaten himself this is the pharaoh of egypt a supreme ruler you can see that he's holding his eldest daughter and he's actually getting ready to kiss her it he seems to be holding her very tenderly supporting her head holding her under the thighs she seems to be perhaps pointing back to her mother at the same moment we see Nefertiti holding another daughter on her lap pointing back to akhenaten and yet a third daughter the youngest one on her shoulder playing with her earring and I think it's immediately apparent that there's something wrong with their Anatomy if we look at the children or we look at Nefertiti or Akhenaten we see swollen bellies very thin arms and elongated skulls forms that have made art historians wonder whether there was something medically wrong with Akhenaten in fact we don't think that there was we think that this is a purely stylistic break it was meant to distinguish this new age this new religion from Egypt's pass Egyptian art had been dominated by rectilinear forms here Akhenaten seems to be demanding this new style dominated by curvilinear forms look at the careful attention to the drapery there is a softness throughout that is an absolute contrast to the traditions of Egyptian art but in some ways there are elements of traditional Egyptian sculpture right we still see a composite view of the body a profile view of the face but a frontal view of the eye right or one hip is facing us but the shoulders are squared with us so as much of the body is exposed to us as possible while the figures are still in profile so let's take a look at some of the iconography here this little panel really tells us a lot God is present autumn is present here rendered as the Sun disc and from that Sun which has a small Cobra in it which signifies that this is the supreme deity the only deity Akhenaten was a monotheistic on track to the pantheon of gods that traditional Egyptian religion counted on here Akhenaten says no there is only one true God so we can see the Cobra we can see the Sun disc and then we can see rays of light that pour down if you look closely you can see hands at the ends of those rays except for the Rays that terminate right at the faces of the king and queen and there you see not only hands but also unk's the egyptian sign of life and so it's as if Otton is giving life to these two people and these two people alone those rates of light are holding those unk's right it's noses the breath of life for Akhenaten and Nefertiti begins in the throne of Nefertiti symbols of both upper and lower egypt indicating that Nefertiti is queen of both Akhenaten himself is sitting on a simpler throne it does give a sense of Carim portance and the fact that they would rule Egypt together