Tutankhamun bust set to reach £4m at Christie's auction
With the distinctive almond-shaped eyes and drooping lower lip of the famed boy king, the quartzite fragment of a larger statue shows Tutankhamun as Amun, the most important god of the era. Depictions of Egyptian deities commonly carried the likeness of the living pharaoh as a propaganda tool for driving home the ruler's power and divine status.
It is the first time that the head, owned by a private collection, has appeared on the open market since 1985. Experts at the London arm of auction house Christie's, where the statue will be sold on July 4, believe the statue would once have been housed at the Temple of Karnak in Upper Egypt, where other statues showing Tutankamun's likeness have previously been found.
Coming to the throne at the age of nine, Tutankhamun ruled for less than 10 years to 1323BCE. But his place in the cultural consciousness was secured after Egyptologist Howard Carter discovered his still-intact royal tomb in 1922, laden with gold, jewellery and finely wrought objects. The sensational find unleashed "Tut-mania" around the world, with Egyptian themes and motifs adopted by architects, fashion houses and jewellers.
Sculptures from the 20-year "Amarna period" preceding Tutankhamun's reign are highly sought as it was a period of religious and artistic revolution when court sculptors rejected standardised motifs to capture individual features in a much more realistic way.