At the beginning of the 14th century. BC. e. Pharaoh Amenhotep IV in order to weaken the growing power of the nobility and priesthood of the god Amon-Ra held social and religious reform, leading the movement of small slaveholders against a large slaveholding aristocracy. The reform of Amenhotep IV, unprecedented in the history of Egypt in its boldness, was reduced to the fact that all the old gods were declared false, their temples were closed, the images were destroyed, and the sun itself – Aton was proclaimed as the new single deity instead of the sun symbol – Amon-Ra. The capital from Thebes was transferred to Ahetaton (“Nebosklon Aton” – the modern Tel-el-Amarna, hence the name, “Amar period”). It was rebuilt by local craftsmen. Old, seemingly unshakable traditions collapsed. In the literature, a colloquial language was introduced, on which even hymns were written.
Such dramatic changes in the life of the country have also been determined by significant transformations in art.
The best works of the Amarna period, dating back to the second half of Akhenaten’s rule, are distinguished by humanity and penetration, are fanned by the true breath of life, full of great inner charm. The search for new images was associated with Akhenaten’s desire to retire from the old canons and approach life, to find new expressive means and iconographic solutions.
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At the same time, changes in the spiritual life have affected the field of fine arts more than architecture. Hastily built from raw brick on a single clear plan, the Ahetaton was quickly destroyed. The main innovation in it was the absence in the churches of the halls of the columns and the presence of huge open courtyards with altars, as worship services were now performed in the open air.
The best that was created in this period is sculpted portraits of Akhenaten and his wife Nefertiti, made in relief and round plastic. For the first time in the history of Egyptian art appeared images of the king in the family. On the reliefs Akhenaten then admires his young and beautiful wife, both of them are depicted with their children, then crying at the deathbed of their daughter. The solar disk of the god Aton everywhere stretches out its rays to them, as if blessing their love and deeds.
The desire to reveal the spiritual being of man transformed the old ideas of the beautiful, which confirmed the physical strength and severe will of the cruel ruler. On the contrary, the portrait head of Akhenaten with heavy eyelids, half-covered with sad eyes (the first quarter of the 14th century BC, Berlin, the State Museums), executed in the workshop of the famous sculptor Tutmes, testifies to a new lyrical interpretation of the image of man.
There are two portraits of Nefertiti, each of which is perfect in its own way, about what changes have taken place in the Egyptian art in the field of understanding human beauty.
The flowering, the art of Ahetaton was suddenly put to an end. Reforms Akhenaten could not gain a foothold, Tutankhamun, was forced to reconcile with the nobility and the priesthood, restoring the old order, and a quarter of a century after the death of Akhenaten, the priests declare him a heretic, destroy his city, and cross out his name from the lists of “legitimate” pharaohs – In the official Egyptian chronicles after Amenhotep III appears Horemheb. However, the break with traditions under Akhenaten caused such drastic changes in all areas of culture that a complete return to the old one was no longer possible. The value of Amarna’s art was not limited to the time of Akhenaten’s immediate successors; it played an important role in the composition of the art of the period of the XIX dynasty, and thus the whole art of the second half of the New Kingdom as a whole.