Head of King Tutankhamen
New Kingdom, Dynasty 18, reign of Tutankhamen
Height x width: 29.6 x 26.5 cm (11 5/8 x 10 7/16 in.)
Medium or Technique
Not On View
In 1922, Howard Carter discovered the tomb of Tutankhamen in the Valley of the Kings at Thebes. The smallest of the royal tombs, it was the only one that preserved its fabulous treasures virtually intact, the king’s mummy resting undisturbed in its four coffins and four shrines nested one inside the other. Despite the unprecedented media coverage lavished on this sensational discovery, Tutankhamen remains a mysterious figure. He was probably born at el-Amarna, the new capital city built by Akhenaten. Succeeding to the throne as a boy of nine or ten years of age, Tutankhamen was taken in hand by the traditionalist clergy and made to repudiate Akhenaten’s religious reforms. He abandoned el-Amarna, reopened the other temples, and showered attention on the old gods. He received little thanks for his piety, however, for later rulers continued to associate him with the heretic Akhenaten. His memory was suppressed, and his statues were appropriated by other rulers, notably Horemheb. When he was remembered at all, it was as a minor ruler. No wonder his tomb treasures caused such a sensation. So familiar are the “boy king’s” gentle features now, that one immediately recognizes a sculpture as his even if it had been usurped by a later ruler or, as here, lacks an inscription. Traces of paint show that the nemes headdress was striped alternately blue and yellow as on the famous gold mask from his tomb.
By 1909: purchased in Egypt by Joseph Lindon Smith; 1909: on loan to the MFA; 1911: purchased by the MFA through funds provided by Mary S. Ames. (Accession date: August 3, 1911)
Museum purchase with funds donated by Miss Mary S. Ames