Nefertiti has become a cliché for hollow
beauty. But Nefertiti is so much more,
she was a Queen, a mother, a politician and a muse, she assisted in a religious
revolution. She was a woman who lived,
breathed, loved and grieved.
Akhenaten and Nefertiti were the parents
of six daughters; Meritaten, Meketaten, Ankhesenpaaten (late Ankhesenamun),
Neferneferure, Neferneferuaten Tasherit and Setepenre. In many scenes Akhenaten and Nefertiti are
shown spending time with their daughters, these leisurely scenes are virtually
unheard of in Egyptian Art prior to the Amarna Period. In many scenes their daughters are climbing
on their laps of their parents or being played with, the three eldest
princesses are also shown in art often behind their mother taking an active
part in the worship of their monotheistic deity Aten.
In the 14th year of Akhenaten’s
reign, their second daughter Meketaten died and the Amarna Artistic style with
its embodiment of realism gives us a glimpse into the deep grief Nefertiti
experienced. It is assumed that
Meketaten died of plague (two of her younger sisters, Neferneferure and
Setepenre, their grandmother Tiye and their fathers wife Kiya) are not
mentioned again after the plague-ravaged Egypt.
The only name preserved in the royal tomb is that of Meketaten and with
her name come images depicting the grief her parents suffered upon her
death. Nefertiti and Akhenaten are shown
bent over her body, mourning and grasping at each other for support.
Her representation in art shows her as a
devout member of the Atenist faith, often depicted (with her daughters) making
offerings to the newly promoted deity. She
took titles to reflect her faith, adding the praenomen Neferneferuaten (beautiful are the beauties of Aten) to her name Nefertiti (The Beautiful One Has Come). The polytheistic system relied on triad,
husband, wife and child (like Osiris, Isis and Horus or Amun, Mut and Khonshu)
and it would on the surface appear that the monotheistic system had abandoned
this form of worship too. But if one
looks at the art, Aten is always present, his rays extending down giving the gift
of life to the Royal Couple in the form of Ankhs and it can be interpreted that
they are the new Triad. Aten, Akhenaten
and Nefertiti are the new divine Triad and their daughters whom they are often
depicted with are the evidence of the strength and virility of their new take
on the ancient trinity.
No Ancient Egyptian Queen appears to have
as much influence as Nefertiti; she is shown not only as a pivotal part of
Atenism, but also as a political figure.
She is depicted as a sphinx and often surrounded by Pharonic symbols,
something usually reserved only for the king.
She has even been depicted in the act of smiting enemies, a gesture used
time and time again when Pharaohs
wanted to project their image as a strong warrior king. In the Gempaaten it appears that Nefertiti is
depicted twice as often as her husband the King, appearing to more or less
eclipse him in such an important building to his religious revolution.
We don’t know how or when Nefertiti died,
if she had any role in the reign of her stepson Tutankhamun and daughter
Ankhesenamun or if she was the identity behind the mysterious, allusive figure
Smenkhkare. The mystery that surrounds
her life and consequent death are as much a part of her appeal as her exquisite
beauty that is shown to us in the famous bust found in the sculptor Thutmosis