Brief Identification: Edit
The Bust of Nefertiti is a sculpture of one of the Queens of Ancient Egypt. It was created around 1340BCE and was likely made in Amarna where it was also discovered. The bust served as a sculptors model which other works of art were based off of ("Room 2.0"). It currently resides in the Egyptian Museum in Berlin.
Technical Evaluation: Edit
This work of art is attributed to royal court artist Thutmose (also referred to as Tuthmosis). The bust consists of a limestone core and several layers of gypsum plaster on the outside, which make up the features of the face and headdress of Nefertiti. Only one of the eyes of Nefertiti is fully detailed with a pupil and iris done in black pigment ("Nefertiti Mystery Solved"). The "missing" left eye inlay helped historians determine that the bust was used as a sculptors model (Arnold, 67). Due to its aesthetic appeal, the bust is considered to be constructed in the Amarna style that was typical for that time (Bearden, 4). Its symmetry is quite remarkable and meticulous and also unusual compared to other royal artwork. The spacing between the features on Nefertiti's face is indicative of the use of the Egyptian system of measurement of which employs the use of body parts (such as the finger or palm) as its base units (Arnold, 67). The artist, Thutmose, likely received his materials through the court. The bust was found in his workshop in 1912 during German led excavations in Amarna. It reached Germany by 1913 but was likely passed through the hands of a sponsor of the excavation before reaching the Egyptian Museum of Berlin in 1923 (Bearden,5).
The Bust of Nefertiti, as it has recently been discovered, actually features two different faces--the one that is seen on the surface and another, carved out of limestone, beneath the painted stucco (RSNA). The hidden face can be seen through the use of digital imaging by the Imaging Science Institute in Berlin and appears to reflect a more realistic version of the Egyptian Queen. Her limestone dipiction portrays her as having a bump on her nose, wrinkles around her mouth, less prominent cheekbones among other things (Royal Beauty, 4). These details were smoothed over with plaster most likely to keep in style with the aestheically appealing Amarma style (Bearden, 4).
Local Historical Context: Edit
Nefertiti was the wife of Egyptian Pharaoh Akhenaten and, "was the most renowned Great Royal Wife of all 31 Egyptian dynasties," (RSNA). Fascination with Nefertiti does not appear to be just a modern occurrence, however. She is depicted in a greater number of works than her husband, which is quite unusual for a Queen (Samson, 88). Under Akenaten's rule, Egypt was to become monotheistic, only worshipping the Sun God Aten. As part of this religious change, the Pharaoh moved the capital from Thebes to Amarna, where the bust of Nefertiti would later be found. Here, the King and Queen would rule in a highly unconventional manner and, "as evidence suggests it is likely that she ruled as co-regent during his lifetime," (Samson, 88). Akhenaten's religious revival also implied a deification of the king. Nefertiti was known to have acted in the place of the king in religious worship, suggesting her own deification (Bearden, 3).
The sculptor of the bust was identified by an inscription found near his workshop which proclaims him the "Chief of Works, the sculptor: Thutmose" and is one of the few artists of Ancient Egypt who is known by name (Arnold, 41). Artists of the time worked in an official state capacity, but were allowed to take on privately commissioned work (Arnold, 41). Thus it is likely that Thutmose created the bust to use a model for royally commissioned artwork. Thutmose's workshop was unusal for an artist at the time as it was connected to an elaborate villa (Arnold, 42). His higher standard of living (compared to other artists) may be attributed to his post as "Chief of Works".
Although the bust of Nefertiti was probably only ever used as a model, its very existence demonstrates how important it was to keep images of her consistent. Other images of Nefertiti, perhaps based off the model, show her in worship or depict her as a diety, and are usually featured alongside Akhenaten or their daughters (Samson). The location where the bust was discovered in antiquity actually provides historical information about the rule of Egypt. The bust was likely abandoned by Thutmose when Akhenaten's successor moved the capital to Thebes once again and reverted the state religion back to polytheism (Arnold, 46).
World Historical Significance: Edit
The Bust of Nefertiti is unique for many reasons. First, the discovery of the "two faces" allows modern historians to contrast a seemingly realistic depiction of an Ancient ruler with what is likely to have been the aesthetic ideal of beauty at the time (Bearden, 5). Second, the bust is reflective of an outlier in the pattern of rulers of ancient Egypt. Nefertiti experienced unprecedented authority as a women, not seen again until the rule of Cleopatra (Samson). The busts of rulers have been seen frequently, yet the bust of Nefertiti stands out again because it was not seen as an independently valued work of art. Its value was in its use as a model for others work, despite is meticulous symmetry. This sculpture may have been used a model for artwork deifying the ruling couple or depicting their worship of Aten (Arnold, 42). The deification of rulers or rule by divine right was used by many ancient rulers and appears to be a trend in the consolidation of power.
Suggested Bibliography: Edit
Arnold, Dorothea. The Royal Women of Amarna: Images of Beauty from Ancient Egypt. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1996. Print.
Bearden, Lauren (2012) "Repatriating the Bust of Nefertiti: A Critical Perspective on Cultural Ownership," The Kennesaw Journal of Undergraduate Research: Vol. 2: Iss. 1, Article 2. (accessed April 16, 2015)
"Nefertiti Mystery Solved." Biblical Archaeology Review 41, no. 3 (May 2015): 10. Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost(accessed April 16, 2015).
"Researchers Use CT to Examine Hidden Face in Nefertiti Bust." RSNA Press Release. Radiological Society of North American (RSNA), 31 Mar. 2009. Web. 16 Apr. 2015.
"Room 2.0 Bust of Queen Nefertiti" Nefertiti: (). Society for the Promotion of the Egyptian Museum Berlin, n.d. Web. 21 Apr. 2015.
"Royal beauty: CT imaging reveals the hidden face of Nefertiti." Advanced Materials & Processes 167, no. 6 (June 2009): 4. Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost (accessed April 19, 2015).
Samson, Julia."Nefertiti's Regality." The Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 63(1977): 88-97. JSTOR. Web. 19 Apr. 2015.