Like Helen of Troy, the beauty of Queen Nefertiti has been documented throughout history and her likeness has been studied and revered since it's discovery.
Who was Queen Nefertiti?
Egypt's second most famous queen (after Cleopatra, of course) Queen Nefertiti was the wife of Akhenaten (formally known as Amenhotep IV) who came to the throne in 1352 BC and reigned for 17 years.
The two of them radically changed the political, spiritual, and cultural life of Egyptians, founding a new religion that worshiped only one god — the life-giving sun deity Aten. Akhenaten acted as the high priest of this new religion, making Nefertiti the high priestess.
The famous bust of this beautiful queen (that the white bust in the photo above was modeled after) was discovered amongst drawings, and other art related to the royal family, in the studio of the sculptor Thutmose at Akhetaten — the capital city during her husband's rule.
The discovery was made in 1912 during excavations by the German-Orient-Association, which is why the current home of this beautiful piece of history is the National Museum of Berlin. (Though Egypt is constantly trying to get this piece returned back.)
Why is the sculpture of Queen Nefertiti so special?
What makes this 50 cm tall sculpture (pictured above) so unique is the fact that sculptures of a bust — consisting of ONLY the head and shoulders — were extremely rare during this period. Because of that, some scholars believe that this piece may have simply been a model (a 3-D sketch) for the artist to follow in order to complete other paintings, carvings, or full body sculptures of the beautiful queen. (Ironically what may have been a basic artist's 'sketch' has become one of the most copied pieces of ancient Egyptian art.)
The colors used in painting the piece, the perfect symmetry of her features, and the fact that the bust was discovered in almost perfect condition also made this an unbelievable find for archeologists.
Whether or not her beauty was exaggerated is something that can never really be proven definitively, but writing by her subjects referring to her as "Fair of Face" and "Endowed With Love" have been found supporting the artist's vision.
Where to see the original bust of Queen Nefertiti
Location: Ägyptisches Museum und Papyrussammlung im Neuen Museum, Bodestr. 1-3, 10178 Berlin (Main entrance located under the colonnades.)