Little is known about Nefertiti, the Egyptian queen whose name means “a beautiful woman has come.” She was the wife of Akhenaten, the pharaoh who ushered in the dramatic Amarna Age, and she bore him at least six children. She played a prominent role in political and religious affairs, but after Akhenaten’s death she apparently vanished and was soon forgotten.
Yet Nefertiti remains one of the most famous and enigmatic women who ever lived. Her instantly recognizable face adorns a variety of modern artifacts, from expensive jewelry to cheap postcards, t-shirts, and bags, all over the world. She has appeared on page, stage, screen, and opera. In Britain, one woman has spent hundreds of thousands of pounds on plastic surgery in hope of resembling the long-dead royal. This enduring obsession is the result of just one object: the lovely and mysterious Nefertiti bust, created by the sculptor Thutmose and housed in Berlin’s Neues Museum since before World War II.
In Nefertiti’s Face, Egyptologist Joyce Tyldesley tells the story of the bust, from its origins in a busy workshop of the late Bronze Age to its rediscovery and controversial removal to Europe in 1912 and its present status as one of the world’s most treasured artifacts. This wide-ranging history takes us from the temples and tombs of ancient Egypt to wartime Berlin and engages the latest in Pharaonic scholarship. Tyldesley sheds light on both Nefertiti’s life and her improbable afterlife, in which she became famous simply for being famous.
Who better than Joyce Tyldesley to part the veil that shrouds Egypt’s most enigmatically charismatic queen, and the haunting bust of her in a Berlin museum—perhaps the most famous portrait from antiquity.
Nefertiti’s Face is an adventure story, an essay on enduring beauty, a penetrating look at one of ancient Egypt’s most perplexing moments, and a perceptive account of how the modern world has interacted with the ancient, from the circumstances of the statue’s discovery to its echoes in contemporary art.
Tyldesley tackles a ubiquitous artwork by stripping back its cliches and thrusting the enigmatic portrait into the constantly shifting stream of social contexts: systemic racism, cultural imperialism and technological appropriation, to name a few…With its immersive style this book makes it clear that nothing is set in stone in the remapping of the ancient world…In her intricate and cogent prose Tyldesley gently reminds us that there is more to revive than Nefertiti’s perennial cool. Much more…[A] grippingly factual read.
[A] well-written, concise cultural history of Nefertiti and her bust.
- 240 pages
- 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
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