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In the steps of the Sun Pharaoh.

A spectacular exhibition dedicated to the reign of Amenophis III is currently delighting crowds in Paris. On show at the French capital's Grand Palais, the exhibition Amenophis III, The Sun Pharaoh, is the culmination of eight years work dedicated to collecting together under one roof many of the artistic representations of this important pharaoh's reign.

More than 150 individual objects have been accumulated from museums and private collections around the world. Although not as instantly resplendent as the gold and precious stones we associate with Tutankhamun's tomb treasures, the Amenophis III exhibition is none the less impressive. The beauty of ancient Egypt flows from each majestic sculptured granite stone head and every tiny but exquisite cosmetic spoon on display.

Following the military successes of his predecessors, the reign of Amenophis III from 1391 to 1353 BC, pharaoh of the XVIIIth dynasty, represents a long period a peace and harmony. For 38 years the pharaoh undertook a colossal artistic project throughout the length and breadth of his empire, from the Nile delta up to Sudan. He decorated the temples with artwork and statues of sizes and numbers hitherto unequalled. He also favoured the use of art for diplomatic and commercial uses. Under his direction pottery, ceramics, glassware and jewellery making all flourished.

The Paris exhibition includes some fascinating and remarkable items which allow us to reflect on the grandeur of court life during Amenophis III's reign. Despite the crowds that have flocked into Paris's Grand Palais, the splendor of the pharaoh's period pervades the atmosphere. Two large sphinxs open a perspective on the colossal pink granite head of Amenophis III himself. The strength of the stone blending, yet at the same time contrasting, with the sensuality of the sculpture.

Queen Ty, the favorite wife of Amenophis, is well represented at the exhibition. A delicate yellow jasper head, on loan from the Metropolitan Museum of New York reveals an elegant beauty with an air of haughty mystery. Examples of Queen Ty's jewellery and personal items, such as her cosmetic spoons help us detached impression of "the great Royal wife", as she is referred to in hieroglyphic accounts of the period of Amenophis III.

Objects of daily use, unguent pots, vases, glassware and the like help complete the picture of life at the time. The glass objects on show in Paris are particularly impressive. Glassware, at that time, was opaque and designed to imitate the colours of precious stones, every effort was made to enhance the hedonistic and luxurious tastes of the period.

Also on display are a fine collection of scarabs, the Egyptian beetle, so beloved of the pharaohs of ancient Egypt. Scarabs were crafted from all types of material to commemorate social highlights from weddings to successful hunting trips, their significance in ancient Egypt was profound. Considered a symbol of rebirth, Amenophis III chose to decorate the altar next to the sacred lake at Karnak with scarab designs.

The Paris exhibition provides a wonderful insight into the pharaoh who was the grandfather of perhaps the best-known ancient Egyptian ruler of them all, Tutankhamun. The discovery in 1989 of a collection of statues at Luxor established that even before his son Amenophis IV, better known as Akhenaton, the father of Tutankhamun, advocated monolatry, the worship of only one god, Amenophis III had already assimilated the theory, aligning himself with the Sun God Aton. And, prior to his son's reign had begun to develop the concept of universal religion. From all the evidence on display in Paris it is clear that Amenophis III was an extraordinary pharaoh, who did much to change the direction of his people.

He came to power at a time when Egypt was enjoying a period of security and considerable prosperity. The King's predecessors had been particularly active warriors whose military campaigns resulted in Egypt conquering foreign lands to the south, modern-day Sudan, and also Syria and parts of Palestine. By the time Amenophis III came to the throne good relationships had been established with these countries and Egypt was not under any sort of military threat. The pharaoh was thus able to devote much of his time to more aesthetic pursuits and during his reign there was a large output of very high quality works of art.

Queen Ty was probably an enthusiastic supporter of the arts since all the available documentation points to her being an influential figure for whom Amenophis had the greatest respect. The queen's parents were not of royal origin, but it is believed, were court officials. Amenophis clearly respected his queen's judgement in many areas. Portraits of the period, showing the royal couple together were painted to the same scale, rather than with the pharaoh displayed as a larger, and thus superior figure to his wife which is, say the experts, an indication of the high esteem in which she was held.

Temples were built by Amenophis and dedicated the queen. The tomb of Amenophis III was first discovered by scholars who travelled to Egypt with Napoleon at the end of the 18th century and later Howard Carter, discoverer of Tutankhamun's tomb, did clearance work at the site.

Excavations only revealed fragmentary evidence of the treasures buried with the King. However, to this day the tomb has not been fully cleared and catalogued, so it is possible there are still some secrets of the Sun Pharaoh we have yet to discover.
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Title Annotation:Amenophis III
Publication:The Middle East
Date:Jun 1, 1993
Words:898
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