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Head of Tutankhamun from the Amarna Period of Egypt’s New Kingdom

Met curator Nicholas Reeves on fragmented history in Head of Tutankhamun from the Amarna Period of Egypt’s New Kingdom, c. 1336–1327 B.C.E.

This head is a fragment from a statue group that represented the god Amun seated on a throne with the young king Tutankhamun standing or kneeling in front of him. The king's figure was considerably smaller than that of the god, indicating his subordinate status in the presence of the deity. All that remains of Amun is his right hand, which touches the back of the king's crown in a gesture that signifies Tutankhamun's investiture as king. During coronation rituals, various types of crowns were put on the king's head. The type represented here—probably a leather helmet with metal disks sewn onto it—was generally painted blue, and is commonly called the "blue crown." The ancient name was khepresh.

Statue groups showing a king together with gods had been created since the Old Kingdom, and formal groups relating to the pharaoh's coronation were dedicated at Karnak by Hatshepsut and other rulers of Dynasty 18. The Metropolitan's head of Tutankhamun with the hand of Amun is special because of the intimacy with which the subject is treated. The face of the king expresses a touching youthful earnestness, and the hand of the god is raised toward his crown with gentle care.

View this work on metmuseum.org

Are you an educator? Here's a related lesson plan. For additional educator resources from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, visit Find an Educator Resource.

Created by The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

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  • leaf green style avatar for user Brooke
    It seems that these Egyptian sculptures often have the nose broken off. Is there a reason for that? Is it a weak point in the structure?
    (9 votes)
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    • male robot hal style avatar for user Wudaifu
      I doubt that the nose is a "weak point in the sculpture." One possible explanation was included in Mark Twain's famous travelogue, from 1869, "Innocents Abroad", in which he relates events from a lengthy journey that he took to Europe and the Middle East. He described how many of his fellow travelers would use hammers to chip off pieces of sculptures to take home as souvenirs. Another possible explanation is the damage that some folks did to earlier sculptures of people that had been conquered or had fallen into disfavor. If you have ever seen a picture where someone has defaced it by drawing a moustache on the face, you can imagine how chipping the nose off of the face of a sculpture could be a similar form of disfigurement. Hope this helps. Good Luck.
      (12 votes)
  • leaf orange style avatar for user Jeff Kelman
    Is the speaker being sarcastic when he says "...it could not have been better broken " ?
    (6 votes)
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    • female robot ada style avatar for user Vicki Bamman
      I don't think he was. He followed that by describing the enormous hand as belonging to Amun-Re, the god, standing behind the boy king. Had the statue been broken in a way that disconnected the hand from the head, there would have been no indication that it was part of a statue group.
      (8 votes)
  • duskpin tree style avatar for user Math Lover
    What happened to his nose because it is gone.
    (1 vote)
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Video transcript

This is a coronation image of the boy king Tutankhamun, the future before him. Tutankhamun was only six years old when this was made. And you see that child-like beauty in his face. The stone is an exquisite hard limestone. It’s beautifully carved. It’s probably the most beautiful image of the boy king Tutankhamun that has come down to us. It could not have been better broken if we’d done it ourselves. It’s not just a head of a king. If we look closely at it we will see that to the rear, is an extremely large hand, from a second figure. This tells us the precise form of the original, intact sculpture, which had a standing image of the king, before a seated representation of Amun-re, king of the gods, whose hand is placing this crown in position. He's wearing the blue crown, a leather bonnet to which were attached blue sequins. The piece does not come from the tomb of Tutankhamun. It’s a fragment of a sculpture that was originally erected in Karnak, on the east bank of the Nile, the land of the living. His reign was absolutely pivotal one for Egyptian history; Egypt being resurrected after the persecutions of Akhenaten’s reign; the old gods being re-established. Tutankhamun, himself, was pretty insignificant; he actually had no say in his life whatsoever. But we see nothing of this, we see only the face of a sweet, innocent, young boy whose days were sadly numbered; nothing more than a mere cipher for the deeds and aspirations of others. With most Egyptian objects, one doesn’t really get much of a feel as to the personality behind it. This I think is one of those rare sculptures which combines everything. It’s beautiful in its own right, and it has a story to tell, and the story it tells is a very human one.