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Art Market

Pick of the fair: Rupert Wace Ancient Art

10 March 2017

New highlights every day from TEFAF Maastricht

Egyptian arm tattoo (1341–1325 BC), Sandstone with traces of polychromy

This carving comes from a colossal figure carved with the likeness of King Amenhotep IV, the pharaoh who changed his name to Akhenaten. It once stood in a temple for the worship of Aten, an aspect of the sun god, which the king built at Karnak in the 18th Dynasty. Some 30 of these four-metre-high statues have been excavated since 1925. The orientation of the hieroglyphs on this fragment and the vertical curve of its surface indicate that it decorated the lower left arm of the figure. Research has revealed that the colossi were reworked and that these carvings did not represent bracelets or arm cuffs but were originally flush with the arm and therefore tattoos. The keen-eyed will also spot the fingers of a small hand rising from the lower edge, indicating the protective rays of Aten. Akhenaten (meaning ‘living spirit of Aten’) broke with tradition by focusing worship on a single deity. His new capital city of Akhetaten at modern-day Amarna was later abandoned by his son Tutankhamun, his name and monotheistic religion discredited and his sarcophagus and statues destroyed or hidden. Akhenaten only emerged out of obscurity with the 19th-century excavations of Flinders Petrie.