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Author Topic: THE GREAT ATEN  (Read 12430 times)
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« Reply #45 on: February 26, 2008, 11:46:36 am »

                                       Art and Iconography in Akhenaten's Reign

The religious iconography of Akhenaten's new belief system centered around the Aten as a divine presence. Representing the life-giving force of the universe, the sun-disk is often depicted in
either abstract or personified form, occasionally both at the same time. Though it's most often
pictured as a mere circle with rays of light radiating downward, the Aten also appears sometimes
with little hands appended onto the end of its solar beams holding out to worshipers the ankh, the Egyptian sign of life. In a few instances, the hands are even shoving the ankh rather unceremo-
niously up the noses of the blessed, a figurative assertion, no doubt, that the sun offers the
"breath of life."

It would seem less comical today if this sacrament didn't look so much like an incontinent ear-swab.

Humorous as it may be to some of us, the significance of this symbol is nevertheless profound,
indeed probably revolutionary to an Egyptian of the day. The sun-worship Akhenaten was pro-
moting surely reminded many of Old Kingdom theology, by now a millennium old, and its false but
pervasive reputation for tyranny (see above, Section 5). More than one Egyptian at the time,
particularly those in the Amun priesthood, must have asked themselves,

"What's next? A pyramid?"

But Akhenaten's movement entailed features far stranger than anything which had happened
in the Old Kingdom. In fact, it looked backwards less than forward in time, at least inasmuch
as the new religion prefigured a very different conception of godhead.

As such, the Aten is typically portrayed without human or animal attributes, in strong contrast
to standard Egyptian practice. The goddess Isis, for instance, is frequently shown as part-wo-
man, part-cow, and the face of her deceased husband Osiris is sometimes painted green to de-
monstrate that he represents the rebirth of vegetation in the spring.

But unlike either of them, Akhenaten's Aten is the font of all being, which means by nature he
cannot be restricted in form, and is thus almost always presented as the aptly universal and
geometric solar circle. The little hands attached to his sun-rays were a concession, no doubt,
to popular taste.

Even to say "he" of the Aten is perhaps too restrictive for this universalist conception of deity—
gender is clearly not relevant to sun-disks—and stranger yet, to say "he" of Akhenaten himself
isn't always valid either.

Male and female styles, which are usually discrete in traditional Egyptian art, blend together in
peculiar fashion throughout Amarna culture, extending as far as royal portraiture. Akhenaten,
for instance, is shown in a series of colossi (large statues; singular, colossus) lacking male geni-
talia, and in general, his depiction is odd, to say the least. He's often portrayed as pot-bellied,
slouching, thick-lipped, with a big chin and pointed head, which has led scholars to suppose he
suffered from some sort of birth defect, resulting in eunuchoidism.

But if so, how did he sire a family, for in art he appears with as many as six different daughters?

And those are only the ones he had by his principal wife.
« Last Edit: February 26, 2008, 11:59:47 am by Bianca » Report Spam   Logged

Your mind understands what you have been taught; your heart what is true.
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