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The Bust of Nefertiti

It is the undisputed star of the Neues Museum and, along with the Pergamon Altar and the Ishtar Gate, the best known exhibit on Berlin’s Museumsinsel: the colourfully painted bust of Nefertiti, created around 1340 BC.

Since it was placed in the North Dome Room of the Neues Museum, which reopened in 2009, it has drawn the attention of hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. The timeless appearance of the face has become an icon of beauty over the past 100 years. But what do we actually know about the ancient Egyptian queen and her world-famous likeness? And how did this bust end up in the Neues Museum?

Here we trace the history of the bust in six chapters: from its creation in the 14th century BC to its discovery in 1912, before looking into its reception in the 20th and 21st centuries. The Ägyptisches Museum und Papyrussammlung is also offering the catalogue of the 2012–13 exhibition In the Light of Amarna: 100 Years of the Nefertiti Discovery, as well as a 3D-scan of the bust created in 2008, as free downloads.

These virtual presentations cannot, of course, replace a visit to the Neues Museum. Ludwig Borchardt’s much-cited entry in his excavation diary of 1912, “Description is useless, must be seen”, holds true to this day.

The Queen

© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Ägyptisches Museum und Papyrussammlung / Sandra Steiß

Who was Nefertiti?

The Find

© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Vorderasiatisches Museum

Where was the bust found, and by whom?

The Bust

© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Ägyptisches Museum und Papyrussammlung / Sandra Steiß

What makes this work of art so exceptional?

The Presentation

© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin / David von Becker

How did the bust end up in the Neues Museum?

The Reception

© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2012 © Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Nationalgalerie / Andres Kilger

How did Nefertiti become an icon of beauty?

The Replica

© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin / Fabian Fröhlich

How do 3D scans and traditional craftsmanship complement each other?

Exhibition catalogue "In the Light of Amarna", 2012