Famous Nefertiti Bust May Be A Fake

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One of the most famous pieces of ancient art might not be so ancient, after all.

From Agence France-Presse:

The bust of Queen Nefertiti housed in a Berlin museum and believed to be 3,400 years old in fact is a copy dating from 1912 that was made to test pigments used by the ancient Egyptians, according to Swiss art historian Henri Stierlin.

Stierlin, author of a dozen works on Egypt, the Middle East and ancient Islam, says in a just-released book that the bust currently in Berlin’s Altes Museum was made at the order of German archaeologist Ludwig Borchardt by an artist named Gerardt Marks.

Stierlin says Borchardt wanted to make a new portrait of the queen, as well as to conduct those pigment tests.

But on December 6, 1912, the copy was admired as an original work by a German prince and the archaeologist “couldn’t sum up the courage to ridicule” his guest, Stierlin said.

And thus was art history made?

Because the stone bust is covered in plaster, and the paint itself is known to be ancient, scientific dating is impossible; but Stierlin makes a compelling case:

  • The bust was designed to lack a left eye, which would have been considered an insult to contemporary Egyptians, who considered such depictions as living manifestations.
  • Egyptians cut the shoulders of their busts horizontally, whereas the vertical cuts of this bust were reminiscent of 19th Century art.
  • The modern look of the facial features is more in the style of Art Nouveau than Ancient Egyptian art.
  • The bust was never mentioned by the French archaeologists who worked at the dig, nor was it included in any written accounts. The first detailed description came in 1923, eleven years after the dig, which seems highly improbable for what would have been such a spectacular and well-preserved find.
  • Borchardt casually left the bust in a sitting-room for ten years, which doesn’t seem likely, had he believed it to be an ancient treasure.
  • One of Berlin’s prime attractions it will move into its own hall at the newly renovated Neues Museum when it reopens to the public in October.

    The cost of which should make for some very heated debate.  

    13 comments

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      • Turkana on May 29, 2009 at 11:54 pm
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      between preview and post endlessly annoys me!

      • Robyn on May 30, 2009 at 12:12 am

      Or is the original missing?

    1. …the Nefertiti bust is too and Bristol Palin dumped that nice young man of hers. Oh Dear Gawd, what’s next?

      • halef on May 31, 2009 at 8:57 pm

      The German press is just abuzz concerning Nefertiti, but the other way ’round:

      Borchart was a German archeology bureaucrat charged by the Kaiser with getting access to promising digs.  He had little respect in the Cairo archeological community because of his association with forgers.

      Eventually, Borchardt finally wrangled a concession to dig, and agreed to the usual 50/50 rule:  The Egyptian government was entitled to 50% of the finds, and the Egyptians decided which half.

      After the Nefertiti find, Borchardt was absent for a number of days, and when he resurfaced, the dig found another amazing artefact:  A wooden folding altar never before seen in Egypt.

      When about two weeks later the Government’s valuers were to show up, Borchardt arranged for Nefertiti to be shown in her transport box, half-covered with sawdust and in dim light.  And he offered to swap the folding altar for Nefertiti.  The valuers agreed.

      A prominent Egyptologist has now said the “folding altar” is a fake; it is based on iconography from much later vintage which was familiar to Borchardt from his previous job in Berlin.  The German government is worried that it might lose Nefertiti, or at least have to pay Egypt several hundred million euros damages.

      So why would Borchardt go to the expense of commissioning a fake in order to secure another fake?

      • Robyn on June 1, 2009 at 1:03 am
    2. .

      Well, the pyramids are just alien traffic cones, anyways.

      Dis is fo’ reals, tho: Hawaiian music. Kanikapila Sunday kine.

      .

    3. but what about the secret room underneath the left paw of the Syphnix which contains the secret of free energy, the origins of man, the fountain of eternal youth and the detailed plans written in Aramaic in the year 2 AD of the Illuminati Plan to Destroy America.

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