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Work Body of a Woman, probably Nefertiti

Department of Egyptian Antiquities: The New Kingdom (circa 1550 to circa 1069 BC)

Body of a Woman, probably Nefertiti

© Musée du Louvre/C. Décamps

Egyptian Antiquities
The New Kingdom (circa 1550 to circa 1069 BC)

Author(s):
Aït-Kaci Lili, Etienne Marc

This piece of sculpture illustrates the level of skill achieved by certain artists during the el-Amarna period. The sculptor fully mastered the style and strictly applied the canons imposed by the new doctrine. The secret of this work's success lies in the delicate volumes: the shape of the body's lower limbs is underscored by the drapery of the clothing, which is slightly incised in the red sandstone. This expansive female body is generally identified as Nefertiti, wife of Amenophis IV- Akhenat

Sensuality

The sculptural quality of this anonymous fragment is surprising, as is the presence and sensuality of the female figure, even though it severely damaged. The woman is depicted standing, with her left leg forward; one arm hangs alongside her body, while the other was probably stretched out in front (perhaps she was playing a musical instrument or presenting an object?). The work, which has a back column, may have been placed on a base. The presentation is traditional, yet the style is unique, in keeping with the rules imposed by Amenophis IV-Akhenaten for artists working at his court.
The contrast between the upper section of the body, the pelvic area and the thighs is softened by the addition of two pieces of fine linen clothing; the folds, ties, and transparency accentuate the figure's curves and volumes.

The pose and modeling

This work is also exceptional for the balance between the pose and the sculptural modeling. The hieratic aspect of the pose provides stability, which is reinforced by the vertical lines of the back column, the vertical drop of the arm, and the figure's strict frontal presentation. The sculpture's natural humanity and sensitivity comes from the supple forms of an extremely feminine figure.

Queen Nefertiti

This statue has no inscriptions of any kind, yet it could be situated and identified from specific features. During the reign of Amenophis IV-Akhenaten, for example the use of quartzite was reserved exclusively to the royal family. Thin, transparent linen was the fabric of choice worn by divine and royal figures from the earliest dynastic periods. Furthermore, the features of the king and his wife, Nefertiti, are known from other works discovered in the primary edifices of this reign.
Nefertiti would therefore have been associated with the cult of the solar god via this now incomplete image and would have been an object of worship as part of the royal couple.

Bibliography

- Pharaohs of the sun, Boston, 1999, notice 49.

- The royal women of Amana, New York, 1996, P. 28.
 
- Africa, The art of a continent, Royal Academy of Art, Londres, 1995, P. 84.

Technical description

  • Body of a Woman, probably Nefertiti

    New Kingdom, 18th Dynasty, reign of Amenophis IV-Akhenaten, 1353-1337 BC

  • Quartzite

    H.: 29 cm.

  • Purchased 1956

    E 25409

  • Egyptian Antiquities

    Sully wing
    1st floor
    The New Kingdom
    Room 25

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