"WHEN FASCISM COMES TO AMERICA IT WILL BE WRAPPED IN THE FLAG
AND CARRYING A CROSS." -SINCLAIR LEWIS

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Famed Nefertiti Bust "A Fake"

And I become just a bit more cynical. I'll explain after the link:

PARIS (AFP) — 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.

"It seems increasingly improbable that the bust is an original," Stierlin told AFP.

The historian said the archaeologist had hoped to produce a new portrait of the queen wearing a necklace he knew she had owned, and was also looking to carry out a colour test with ancient pigments found at the digs.

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.
I studied archaeology in college and while I didn't specialize in ancient Egypt (I'm a much bigger fan of the Roman Empire) I've always found it to be an equally mysterious and fascinating culture. So I spent the summer of 2003 backpacking across Europe where I visited about a dozen countries, Germany being one of them and Berlin being one of the cities I spent some time in there.

Long story short: I visited this museum (amongst dozens of others that year) and I viewed this specific bust. More to the point, the museum was fairly crowded that day and when I walked into a small side room with this bust set on a pedestal in its middle and encased in a square glass cover it was surrounded by about 10-12 noisy and fairly annoying people. Just as I was lamenting the fact that I had to share the space with so many others (which I almost always do when I'm in a museum; if you have the same problem do what I did: become a museum member and donor. It's a completely different experience walking through silent and deserted galleries alone at night) everyone suddenly cleared out and moved on to the next exhibit.

And there I was, suddenly all alone in silence and face to face with this exceptionally gorgeous and ancient work of art. Now I'm not saying that I felt an explicit kinship with Nefertiti at that moment or that I suddenly channeled a past life as a pyramid builder in ancient Egypt or anything like that, but merely that in those few fleeting moments I felt a very real yet also surreal calm and enjoyment as I privately looked into the face of this beautiful woman who ruled over an entire kingdom thousands of years before I was born. It was a feeling that I still remember quite vividly, so much so that it is one of the more lucid and cherished memories of my trip.

And now I just found out that it's a fake. And while the moment and the feelings that it elicited are still and will always be with me, I must admit that the entire experience now feels slightly cheapened by this recent revelation. And I become just a bit more cynical. And I subsequently open my second bottle of Chardonnay of the night...

(via)

11 comments:

Deranged Leftwing Baker said...

It's sad that something as famous as this bust turns out to be a fake. It casts doubt on so many other items. It really shakes my faith in science. And as a nihilist, that's all the faith I have.

BD said...

At least you can rest assured that the drunken night in Paris with that awesome American couple was real......or was it?

JBW said...

Sad indeed DLB but don't despair for science, just presupposition and bad scientific method.

BD, that debaucherous night is emblazoned onto every brain cell I didn't murder with homemade Parisian alcohol, and that American couple was pretty neato. I wouldn't mind forgetting the 4 km walk back to my hostel however...

Van Zan said...

Well Stierlin hasn't proven it yet, has he?.

Just a personal view:
Even if it turns out not to be a genuine artifact - by proof of objective scientific evidence - we should not give in to cynicism, because that is just as bad as unreasoning faith. History is just something we are passing through, and not the plaything of something as ephemeral as our emotions.
Would you want the history of the American empire, through whose rubble some archeologist of the distant future may some day sift, to be tossed aside as humbug when some great pretty edifice is doubted by some to be the genuine statue of liberty of the fabled lost city of New York?

In governance of our own passions, the sense of wonder is often what makes life cool.
And when I build my time machine I'm definitely taking Nefertiti out for dinner and a movie.

JBW said...

My own sense of wonder at the unlimited beauty of the universe is, as always, unwavered VZ. Additional cynicism is just a byproduct of that process...

shannon said...

Bummer! We just saw the King Tut exhibit in Dallas with mom, Reed, and Meri. It was pretty cool. My favorite part was the sarcophagus' of Tut's stillborns. I know that it sounds a little morbid, but that really fascinated me. My comments are much more shallow than your other bloggers, but I still like making them. :)

JBW said...

Shallow it up, girl. It's always nice to hear differing points of view here.

objects in space said...

Shannon, I had not heard about the stillborns. The King Tut Exhibit is set to arrive in my area this summer, I was excited before but am now even more so! Thanks for sharing :)

This whole Nefertiti Bust issue brings up an interesting area of History, how many truthful things, and not just in art or artifacts, have become mistakenly glorified because someone bowed to power?

JBW said...

That's why it's so vital for society to support the arts and art research, objects in space. The people who study and teach in this field are who we are relying on to make those kinds of historical judgements. Thanks for checking out the site.

Anonymous said...

Neat site!

As an artist and student of art history, initially I was totally dismayed that the bust we know so well and love (even those of us who are heterosexual females)is not ancient. Yet she still is beautiful and exquisitely feminine. For that we should thank the 20th century German artist.

JBW said...

Agreed, Anon. The work is still intrinsically beautiful although I'm still disappointed that its origins are not what I understood at the time. I hope you decide to keep checking in here from time to time.