A rare Egyptian Ring Bezel for the Pharaoh Akhenaten, Amarna Period, ca. 1351-1334 BCE
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a fine ring bezel of bright blue-glazed faience with incised text that is prenomen of Akhenaten that reads: “Nefer-kheperu-re Wa-en-re,” which means “Re is one of the beautiful manifestations, the one whom Re chose".
Background: The reign of Akhenaten was characterized by social, political, and religious upheaval, which few cultures ever experience. In just under two decades on the throne, Akhenaten imposed new aspects of Egyptian religion, overhauled its royal artistic style, moved Egypt's capital to a previously unoccupied site, implemented a new form of architecture, and attempted to obliterate the names and images of some of Egypt's traditional gods.
Son of Amenhotep III and Queen Tiy, this Egyptian king came to power around 1351 BCE as Amenhotep IV but changed his name to Akhenaten (ie: Effective for Aten) in the fifth year of his reign. In the same year, he created a new city as a royal residence in Middle Egypt midway between the administrative and religious centers of Memphis and Thebes. He called the city Akhet-Aten (Amarna/Tell el-Amarna) in dedication to his new monotheistic religion centering on the sun god Aten (best understood as the light produced by the sun), elevating this god to the position of state deity, thus directing focus and funding away from the Amun priesthood. At an unknown point in his reign, the names and images of the god Amun and his consort Mut were erased on all accessible monuments throughout Egypt and Nubia.
As the king implemented new religious ideas, Egyptian art underwent a monumental transformation, with centuries of rigid convention abandoned in favor of a new, highly stylized artistic approach imbued with divine meaning. Amarna's multiple palaces were constructed of mudbrick and painted with colorful, highly decorative scenes of plants, wildlife, and the royal family. These structures were unlike any that had come before. Instead of private, closed-in sanctuaries, the king introduced large open-air courtyards and columned porticos, allowing Aten's sunlight to flow directly into the complex. Images of the royal family completely replaced images of the gods that had decorated Egyptian temples and tombs for centuries, effectively presenting the king, his wife, Queen Nefertiti, and their children as living gods. The royal family took on a more androgynous appearance, with large heads supported by slender, elongated necks. Faces were characterized by large lips, long noses, and squinting eyes, and their bodies displayed narrow shoulders and waists, with small concave torsos, large thighs, buttocks, and bellies.
After 17 years on the throne, Pharaoh Akhenaten died in 1336 BCE. He was succeeded by the mysterious Smenkhkare (a short-lived pharaoh many Egyptologists believe to have been Nefertiti), who in turn was succeeded by Akhenaten's nine-year-old son, Tutankhaten. By his third regnal year, Tutankhaten had abandoned Akhetaton and moved his residence to Memphis. He changed his name to Tutankhamun ('The Living Image of Amun') and issued a decree restoring the temples, images, personnel, and privileges of the old gods. Within a few years, Amarna, Akhenaten's glorious 'Horizon of the Aten' had been completely abandoned, its new religion, king and queen forgotten.
cf: Freed, Rita E., Yvonne J. Markowitz, and Sue. H. D'Auria, eds. Pharaohs of the Sun: Akhenaten, Nefertiti, Tutankhamen. Exh. cat. Boston: Museum of Fine Arts, 1999.
Gabolde, Marc. D'Akhenaton à Toutânkhamon. Paris: Diffusion de Boccard, 1998.
Gabolde, Marc, et al., eds. Les Édifices du règne d'Amenhotep IV/Akhenaton: Urbanisme et revolution. Actes du Colloque le 18–19 novembre 2011. Montpellier: -, 2011.
Hornung, Erik. Akhenaten and the religion of light. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 2001
Kemp, Barry J. The City of Akhenaten and Nefertiti: Amarna and Its People. London: Thames & Hudson, 2012.
Condition: The bezel is complete, having been rejoined from two original pieces. The inscription is crisp and overall in very good condition. The bezel is presented on a museum-quality custom mount.
Dimensions: Height: 2 cm (0.78 inch). Mounted height: 2 inches (5 cm)
Provenance: John N. Winnie, Jr. private collection, Georgia, assembled 1980s-90s, thereafter a private CT collection, private NYC collection, private Virginia collection.