Bust of Nefertiti

The bust of Queen Nefertiti housed in Berlin’s Neues Museum is one of Ancient Egypt’s most famous works of art.

A prime example of ancient artistry, this icon has been called “the most beautiful woman in the world”. Hypnotizing audiences since it went on display in 1923, the statue gives insight into the enigmatic queen and continues to generate controversy and debate in art and politics.

Bust of Queen Nefertiti
Bust of Nefertiti. Neues Museum Berlin, Germany. ÄM 21300

Nefertiti’s bust is the sole work of art in the dimly lit room. She stands 48 cm (19 inches) tall and weighs 20 kg (44 lbs). Positioned slightly above eye level, the viewer gazes up at her, contributing to the power and regal feeling of the piece.

The statue is delicate, elegant and very symmetrical with a visual flow guiding you from the top of the crown down to the long neck. The naturalism differs from earlier more formal and rigid Egyptian art.

Nefertiti, the beautiful woman has arrived

“… Nefertiti’s image has come to overshadow the woman herself, exacerbated by how little we actually know of her with any degree of certainty.

On the other hand, her current world dominion presents an interesting contrast with the way in which she was actively written out of history soon after her own death.

Dimly and distortedly remembered by only a few later annalists, her very existence was only gradually recognized once again during the nineteenth century AD.

Nefertiti’s progress beyond being simply a name was initially a slow one, and even then, much of what became ‘known’ about her was often guesswork or misguided extrapolation or misinterpretation from the available material.

'The beautiful woman has arrived' is what Nefertiti's name means
‘The beautiful woman has arrived’ is what Nefertiti’s name means

Significant parts of these early (mis)interpretations have become calcified as ‘factoids’ outside the realm of specialists in the history of the Eighteenth Dynasty.

Indeed, the most potentially sensational data that suggested that she had ended life not as a queen, but as a female king, was misread for some eight decades, at the same time creating a wholly illusory sexual narrative for her husband.”

Nefertiti, Queen and Pharaoh of Egypt: Her Life and Afterlife, by Aiden Dodson

The estimated date of the statue’s creation is 1345 BC by the sculptor Thutmose during the Amarna Period.

There are no inscriptions, but Nefertiti was identified by her trademark blue flat-top crown with the uraeus (rearing cobra), which is missing. The core is limestone covered with plaster, which allowed for the exception molding and detail around the face.

Bust of Nefertiti
Bust of Nefertiti