The bust of Nefertiti is one of the best-known ancient artworks, right up there with the Sphinx, the Winged Victory of Samothrace and the Venus de Milo. Dating from around 1340 BC, it depicts the wife of Egyptian Pharaoh Akhenaten, and both the artistic quality and the evident beauty of its sitter have fascinated museum-goers over the decades.
Yes, that’s “decades” and not centuries, because the bust was only discovered in 1912 by German Egyptologist Ludwig Borchardt, who spirited it back to Berlin where it has been ever since. And since 2009 it’s had a spectacular new setting in the restored Neues (New) Museum, where it can be seen from all angles, dramatically spotlit against dark walls.
Like Nefertiti, the Neues Museum bears the traces of its eventful history, with its dings and imperfections serving not to diminish but somehow to enhance its overall impact. With a huge central stairway and a mixture of old display cases and murals alongside up-to-date steel and glass, the museum is the latest piece in the ongoing restoration of Berlin’s Museum Island, one of the world’s greatest cultural ensembles.
To mark the anniversary of Nefertiti’s discovery, the Neues Museum will host an exhibition in late 2012 and into 2013 which will put this superstar sculpture in historical and artistic context. You’ll be able to compare the refined features of the famous bust with other depictions of Nefertiti held by the museum. While there, you can take in other pieces from one of Europe’s finest collection of Egyptian artifacts, including miraculously preserved funerary pieces and a huge range of carvings.