The unfinished head of Nefertiti

This unfinished brown quartzite head of Queen Nefertiti, the beautiful wife of King Akhenaten was part of a composite statue. Each element was sculpted separately to be later assembled into one statue.

As it remained unfinished, the head retained the guiding lines of the sculptor: the eyebrows were marked with brown and the eyes with black. Like the rest of Akhenaten’s family, the head portrayed the queen according to the Amarna style of art.

Unfinished head of Queen Nefertiti. Egyptian Museum, Cairo. JE 59286
Unfinished head of Queen Nefertiti. Egyptian Museum, Cairo. JE 59286

Nefertiti’s oval face reflected the sensibility and grace of a woman of great spirit. The eyebrows were elongated naturally towards the temples, projecting supercilious arches and cheekbones.

Related: Bust of Nefertiti

The eyes were half-dimmed by the slightly downcast eyelids. The shape of her mouth hinted at a mysterious quality. All of these features, which were rendered with harmonious proportions, created a beautiful portrait of the queen.

Nefertiti, the Immortal Queen

“Nefertiti of Dynasty 18 (1550 to 1295 B.C.) has been immortalized for her beauty. Her limestone bust, now in the Egyptian Museum of Berlin (ÄM 21300), shows a regal and mature woman with a proud gaze, high cheekbones, dark-olive skin, eyes set obliquely in her face, full and luscious red lips, pure symmetricality (except for one unfinished, or possibly damaged, eye), all topped by a unique blue crown that set her queenship apart from every other Egyptian King’s Wife, before or after.

But Nefertiti was much more than a flawless accompaniment to her god-king or a fertile field for her lord. She would live through an unprecedented storm of events that called upon her to become a steadfast and calm leader who could heal the deep wounds inflicted on her people during the strangest, least traditional time Egypt had ever known… Nefertiti would receive no credit for this political leadership, even though it was she who started the restoration of a country turned upside down, setting Egypt to rights at its darkest hour.”

When Women Ruled the World: Six Queens of Egypt, by Kara Cooney

The head is unfinished, which is clear by the rough quality of the back of the head, and by the black guidelines running through the center of the face, around the hairline, along the philtrum, around the nostrils, encircling the eyes, and marking out the brows. These marked areas would have been carved out further by the sculptor to provide detail.

The Unfinished Head of Queen Nefertiti
The Unfinished Head of Queen Nefertiti

One odd feature to note is that the lips appear to have been painted a shade of red before the statue head was complete. The statue head embodies the distinct style of Amarna art.

The previously mentioned classic elements of Nefertiti’s facial features are still visible. Despite the unfinished state of the piece; high cheekbones, slanting eyes, arched brows, a full mouth and a slender neck.

New Kingdom, 18th Dynasty, Amarna Period, reign of Akhenaten, ca. 1353-1336 BC. Now in the Egyptian Museum, Cairo. JE 59286