NEFERTITI – “The Beautiful One cometh”

 You can stand next to her, as I did 40 years ago in the Charlottenburg Palace in Berlin.   It was a rare privilege for me then and I ask, Did I appreciate it?  What would such appreciation actually mean?

In the presence ...

                         In the presence …

I remember hearing that German archaeologists were no longer welcome in Egypt  ̶  they had made off with this prime patrimony, but, as with the Elgin Marbles, the Germans stood fast.

T.S. Eliot told us that art doesn’t improve.  Painters, sculptors, frieze-makers before and since the Egyptian millennia have not again achieved what the Egyptians so richly attained  ̶  the integrated balance between stylized and naturalistic expression.  Nowhere is this achievement as striking as it is in the Nefertiti bust, made around 1350 B.C.

I do remember thinking how contemporary the beauty of this figure is.  Even now, in 2016, I can easily find a comparison in someone like Angeline Jolie in Hollywood.  But Nefertiti is more elegant, stronger and yes, stylized.  There is energy in the features, a characteristic of so much Egyptian art.  What is the precedent for that energy?


The closest for me is the art of the Khoi-San people of Africa.  The depictions of animals in their rock art are amongst the most accurate, naturalistic in art history and they are static.  The human figures, stylized, stride across Africa and beyond.  There is energy.  In Egyptian art this polarity becomes one.

Rock art, Castellon, Spain

Egyptian soldiers

                             Egyptian soldiers

To get poetic, Nefertiti is for me what a goddess could look like.  Yet that visage is sensual.  She is with us, keeping a magnetic distance.  She gazes out over the heads of people, the landscapes, the curve of the earth.  Mona Lisa looks at you and is there a smile?  A smaller world, and, as much as she intrigues me, she doesn’t turn me on.

So, do I appreciate Nefertiti?  Does anybody?  How can we appreciate someone so heavenly, so earthy?

The profile


© Will van der Walt

Les Semboules, Antibes

December, 2016


Bust –

Bust  ̶

Egyptian soldiers ̶

Rock art, Castellon, Spain (source lost)

Profile –




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