Why are there scratch marks around the faces?
This piece was used as a sculptor's model and is not a finished work of art (as you may have read in the label!) it is likely that the scratches occurred during the workshop practice of the artists.
Why are there scratch marks around the face?
This object was actually an artist's template and wasn't a final completed work. It was probably carved by one of the more accomplished artists and served as a model for other artists in the Amarna workshop.
Who are these people?
This plaque was from a really interesting time in Ancient Egyptian history, known as the Amarna period.
The figure on the left, Akhenaten completely changed the official religion in Egypt during his reign, excluding all the gods except Aten, a new sun god, who he built lavish temples for. He also significantly changed the way he as king was represented compared with previous rulers. Let me know if you have any questions in the Amarna galleries.
Hi, I'm working on a class project. Can you tell me about the Wilbour Plaque and Akhenaten?
Akhenaten was a heretical king; his beliefs went against everything else in Egyptian religion. Going against the belief that there are many many gods who make up the world and afterlife, he believed in only praising the sun disk or the Aten. Which is why he changed his name to Akhenaten. He built roofless temples to worship the sun, and didn't allow any worship of other deities. This changed the whole system of the afterlife! It also removed power from the priests of Amun at Thebes who had become more powerful than the pharaoh. During the reign of his son and successor, the Pharoah Tutankhamun, the religious system was changed back to what it was before Akhenaten.
Also, the way Akhenaten was depicted is completely different than kings before and after him. As you'll see in some of the reliefs in this room, he is depicted with very stylized curvy body, and a long, narrow face with large lips. No other king was ever shown this way!
Are there any well known craftsmen/women at all?
That's pretty rare. Sometimes a workshop can be identified by a style. In the even rarer case that the workshop has been excavated we may know the name of the lead artisan in charge of the operation.
Some workshops have been excavated at Tell el-Amarna, the capital during the reign of Akhenaten. In the Amarna Period gallery here you can see a small incomplete relief referred to as "The Wilbour Plaque" which does come from a workshop and is understood to be a model for young artisans to learn from.
Yes! Workshop models from Amarna, like this and the famous Bust of Nefertiti, are especially important because, as you can see below, the completed monuments were intentionally defaced.
Why do they have elongated occipital part of the head?
This was the typical iconography of Akhenaten. Overall, he preferred amore rounded and softer body shape. Scholars believe it served a symbolic function.
I'm sure you saw in the rest of the galleries, men, specifically kings, are usually shown as very fit, with some muscle definition. Akhenaten preferred a more rounded and elongated aesthetic when it came to the face and body.
Thank you very much
What tools were used for the Wilbour Plaque?
In stone carving the ancient Egyptians used a variety of tools. For a small limestone relief like this one, the primary tools were likely a chisel and an abrasive (the way we might used sand paper.)
Thanks a bunch.
What is the subject of the work on the Wilbur plaque?
The Wilbour plaque shows reliefs of the Pharaoh Akhenaten and his primary wife Queen Nefertiti.
The piece was never intended to be viewed as a finished work. This was likely an example made by a master carver for other members in the workshop to copy from.
Why are the Wilbour Plaque and the Unidentified Queen similar?
As far at the head: the similarities are because they are from the same time period. This head may even also show Nefertiti like the figure to the right in the Wilbour Plaque. You'll also want to think about what parts of the face look similar on this sculpture when compared to the Plaque.
Was there a reason why the facial expressions were always stern and emotionless?
The ancient Egyptians depicted faces in their natural and relaxed state. For one thing, this helped emphasize the eternal nature of the image. It is also important to remember that the idea of “smiling for the picture,” was not popularized until the introduction of the point and shoot camera in the mid 20th century.
Was limestone a rare and expensive material at the time and was limestone the best material to carve these images onto?
Quite the contrary, limestone is plentiful in Egypt! Carving into stone was a somewhat laborious process which adds some expense to the material. Limestone is much easier to carve into, however, than granite, for example.
Considering that the Wilbour Plaque was likely designed as a reference example, carving into the softer and more abundant stone makes a lot of sense.
Isn’t limestone easy to break apart? How has it lasted so long?
There are many widely varying qualities of limestone in the world. A lot of the limestone from Egypt is quite fine grained so it doesn't flake apart like some types can.
Okay!! Thank you so much for all your help!
What was so “heretical” about Akhenaten and Nefertiti?
King Akhenaten was considered heretical because he elevated the cult of the Aten within the Egyptian pantheon while closing the temples of other traditional gods and restricting worship to the Aten and the royal family.