By Fernando Dameto Zaforteza, Deputy Director of Humanities at IE School of Arts and Humanities
I first came across the bust of Nefertiti in Egyptian Art class during my first year at university. I remember staring at the slide, thinking it was not remarkable. So naturally when I traveled to Berlin a few years later the famous sculpture was not among my priorities. I was more interested in seeing the ancient Near Eastern art, especially the Ishtar Gate. But everything changed when I walked into the Egyptian Museum and came face to face with the magnificent Nefertiti.
Only when you stand in front of her do you become fully aware of the beauty of the sculpture: her long and elegant neck, golden tanned skin and velvet complexion, and a single eye looking at you. Photographs are unable to show the majesty of the work of art. Only in person do you understand why her name means “the beautiful woman has come.” You want to go back to your old textbooks and read about this woman who was the wife of Akhenaten, the pharaoh who is responsible for the biggest heresy in three thousand years of Egyptian history. Nefertiti was not merely a “trophy wife”; she took an important role in politics, in particular in the introduction of the new religion that marked a transition from polytheism to monotheism (though this change did not last long after their reign, when the old religion was restored).
Since 2009, the experience of viewing the bust of Nefertiti has been enhanced even more. The sculpture is housed in David Chipperfield’s outstanding Neues Museum, a new concept museum which recreates the time periods of the pieces exhibited. The space that now hosts Nefertiti has been designed perfectly. It is large enough to avoid becoming crowded, yet remains small enough to be cozy. The decor brings out the colors of the bust, while the floor matches her dress and the walls her crown. When you are in that the room staring at Nefertiti, you somehow feel as if you are back in Ancient Egypt, in front of the real queen.