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Replica of Bust of Nefertiti

Maker unknown
20th century
Painted plaster

The bust of Nefertiti, which was purchased by Denys Eyre Bower, is a copy of the original one and is part of his Egyptian collection. It can be seen on the mantelpiece in the Egyptian room at Chiddingstone Castle. Denys first became interested in Egyptology at the age of 17, following the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1922. 

The bust of Nefertiti in the Egyptian Room at Chiddingstone Castle, photo by Gillian Batchelor

The bust of Nefertiti is one of the most copied works of art from Ancient Egypt, and Queen Nefertiti is one of the most well-known queens from that time. When he purchased the statue, Denys would have known that he had bought a copy rather than the original. The bust depicting Queen Nefertiti wears a cap crown, a blue headdress, with a golden diadem band and elaborate designs. The blue headdress was adopted from the goddess Tefnut and reflects her authority. 

A copy of the bust of Nefertiti from The Egypt Centre Swansea, photo by Gillian Batchelor

The original was created by the sculptor Thutmose around 1345 BCE and is made from limestone and stucco. It was discovered in the early 20th century by the German excavator Ludwig Borchardt on behalf of the German Oriental Company in an expedition in Armana in 1912. The circumstances of its subsequent export to the Berlin Museum were at the time a source of some controversy. In 1913 a sponsor of the excavation lent the sculpture to the Neues Museum in Berlin, where it has remained ever-since. 

Nefertiti was a wife of The Pharoah Akhenaten, who changed the capital city of Egypt from Thebes to Aketaten, modern day Armana.  During the Armana period King Akhenaten changed the religion in Ancient Egypt from the worship of multiple gods to the worship of a single God, the Aten, a sun disc. Nefertiti and Akhenaten had six daughters together. The King’s affection for his family and daughters is shown in many works of art and Nefertiti is depicted as ever present at Akhenaten’s side.

The Palace at Aketaten, modern day Armana, photo by Gillian Batchelor

Nefertiti means ” the beautiful one is come”. There have been many theories put forward about Nefertiti, but little is known about her background. It is believed that her mummy was probably buried alongside Akhenaten’s tomb in Amarna. To date it has not been found. It is likely to have been moved and quite possibly destroyed. Currently there are many Egyptologists trying to locate or identify Nefertiti’s remains. 

In offering scenes Nefertiti was shown equal in size to her husband, and at the Aten temple at Karnak she had her own shrine and reliefs showed her offering directly to the Aten without the King’s presence. She is also often portrayed officiating in religious ceremonies alongside the King. She enjoyed unusual power and influence for the wife of a Pharoah.

The Pharoah Akhenaten depicted alongside Queen Nefertiti, photo by Gillian Batchelor

When Nefertiti’s husband died the next King to take the throne was Smenkhkara. One theory is that Smenkhara was in fact Nefertiti, but this has never been proven. If Nefertiti was Smenkhara, she reigned for a short time and was replaced by the boy King Tutankhamun. As with many aspects of the Armana period there are a lot of theories and insufficient evidence to either prove or discount this theory completely. There is evidence to suggest that whilst Akhenaten was Tutankhamun’s father, his mother was probably a secondary wife called Kiya. Tutankhamun’s wife Ankhesenpaaten was the daughter of Nefertiti and Akhenaten. Therefore, Tutankhamun and his wife were half-sister and brother.

The period in which Nefertiti lived is often difficult to understand because in subsequent periods much of the evidence was destroyed. The temples were dismantled and the city reduced to ruins and often the blocks were reused. Subsequent lists of Kings omitted the rulers from this period, so much speculation and controversy remain.

The replica bust of Nefertiti sits on the mantlepiece of the Egyptian Room, where visitors can recognise it upon entering. It is an iconic image from Ancient Egypt, and this replica has been embellished with further detail than the original, which has a missing right eye. The eye appears to have not been painted in on the original bust, but it has been added to the Chiddingstone Castle replica. The replica gives us an idea of how the original bust was intended to look.

The object of the month for December was chosen, researched, and written by our Egyptian collection volunteer Gillian Batchelor.

This object is just one of the many objects that form part of Denys Eyre Bower’s five impressive collections which include Ancient Egyptian, Japanese, Buddhist, Stuart and Jacobite, and Books. For more information on these objects, review our Object of the Month series, visit the Historic House and Collections or contact our Curator, Naomi Collick by email or by calling 01892 870347.

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