reporting that 1.2 million people viewed it last year. So we know what Nefertiti looked like.
Or do we? I mentioned the papers written in memorial to Bill Murnane some time ago, but I am still working through them. I recommend the paper by Earl L Ertman on the Images of Amenhotep IV and Nefertiti in the Style of the Previous Reign [Amenhotep III]. Relatively few images of Nefertiti have been identified from the reign of Amenhotep III (or perhaps more precisely, few images showing pre-Amarnan styling), but Ertman still charts changes in the representation of Nefertiti. The changes in the representation of Akhenaten are well known, but less has been written on the changes in the representation of Queen Nefertiti. Comparing the images in the paper with the famous bust, there are clear differences for example in the shape of the eyes. While it is tempting to assume that the bust is a photographic representation of Nefertiti, there are grounds for feeling that Amarna era images are more stylised that faithful portraits.
The portrayal of royalty is often not accurate. Even portaits of HM Queen Elizabeth are remarkably varied and, in candour, some do not especially look like her Majesty. In Medieval England portraits of English queens often depicted them with blonde hair because that we the popular feminine ideal, even though they are now known to have had dark hair (for instance some Spanish princesses).
There is no doubt that the bust is a wonderful piece of art, but it may still be an idealised representation.
8 months ago