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Video transcript

[Music] we're in the noise Museum in Berlin and we're looking at the famous bust of Nefertiti it is a life-sized full-color image and it's really impressive it's the treasure of this museum and it's been placed in a rotunda with a large dome she's been placed slightly higher than I level so we look up at her she's fabulously beautiful she's virtually the sole work of art in this very large space clearly she is the focal point yeah it's quite theatrical and unlike so many other Egyptian sculptures she wasn't intended for a tomb she was found in the studio of the artist who made her that most we think that this sculpture was actually a model that he had created in order to work on other sculptures of her that is this sculpture would function really as a three-dimensional sketch as a prototype that's right and there are a few reasons why that's thought I don't know was found in his studio but it is incomplete in a way that suggests that it was never meant to be completed if you look for instance at the sockets of the eyes that would generally be inlaid with semi-precious stones but only one eye has any inlay in it and in that case it's temporary material even wax and so not the kind of quality one would expect in a full-fledged sculpture for the Queen art historians have discovered through scientific analysis that she's made not just a painted limestone but limestone that's been covered with a very very thin layer of plaster and that enabled the sculptor to achieve really subtle effects modeling her face but then the neck and headdress plaster gets much thicker and it would have been much easier to work and create that very fine detail on the plaster rather than to the coarser material of the limestone core and that's so important where we see the lines very subtle movement around her cheeks what's so remarkable about this sculpture is how sensitively carved she is how we really get a sense of skin and bone and these lovely movement around her face she's tremendously elegant but even beyond the simple elegance of the contours of her face her high cheekbones shallow of her cheeks her long neck beautiful symmetry a way in which line is unified throughout the entire portrait bust for instance follow the lines downward that are constructed by the contours of her headdress but tapers as it moves towards her chin so her face and headdress create a perfect triangle but that's actually continued by the lines of her neck below her chin and it's accentuated by the lighting in this museum but it really does create the sense of continuity from the top of the sculpture to its base what we're describing is a new ideal of beauty it's really different from the tradition of ancient Egyptian sculpture and that's because Nefertiti was the wife of the Pharaoh Akhenaten who established a new religion in ancient Egypt which was monotheistic instead of the traditional polytheistic religion and with that he created a new ideal of beauty that we see in the sculptures that were created during his reign that's why I think we see this sculpture really is a perfect exemplar Nefertiti is especially interesting because we believe she did not simply function as the wife of the Pharaoh she's shown in so many portraits with the accoutrements of the ruler that we think that she actually shared power it's interesting this period that we call the Amarna period of Akhenaten's reign where we have two powerful women his mother ta and his wife Nefertiti both represented his beautiful women as powerful women and giving us a kind of insight into late Egyptian culture you [Music]