What line could possibly connect the Fuhrer and the Queen of the Sun loving Pharaoh Akhenaten, a woman whose visage is almost synonymous with ancient Egypt?
Let’s start with Point A:
“I am an artist and not a politician. Once the Polish question is settled, I want to end my life as an artist.” – Adolf Hitler, in conversation with British ambassador Nevile Henderson, Aug 1939 (just before the outbreak of World War II).
It’s not uncommon knowledge that Hitler had his dreams crushed when he was denied – not once, but twice – by the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna. His portfolio, it was deemed, paid more attention to architecture than to humans.
However, that didn’t stop him from painting. Some of these survive, being held by private collectors. Others are in the not-public (but-it’s-the-‘peoples’-so-we-can’t-call-it-private) holdings of the U.S. government. It’s estimated that Hitler made some 300 – 600 paintings throughout his life.
What’s the point of this info-dump?
The Fuhrer liked art.
There are people that get worked up about Hitler’s desire to collect occult artifacts, but the word artifact says a lot (19th c., from the Latin arte ‘by or using art’ and factum ‘something made’) – I suspect his ambitions might have also been aesthetic.
Which leads directly to point B:
Neferneferuaten Nefertiti (c. 1370 – c. 1330 BCE) was a queen of the 18th Dynasty of Ancient Egypt; more precisely, she was the Great Royal Wife of Pharaoh Akhenaten.
Akhenaten has a prominent place in Egyptian religious history. However, before proceeding, it’s time for our Big Word of the Day:
- hen·o·the·ism: adherence to one particular god out of several, especially by a family, tribe, or other group.
Akhenaten is sometimes depicted as being a monotheist, but that would mean denying the existence of other gods. Akhenaten definitely pushed the worship of the Aten, which is the solar disc of the Sun God Ra, but he didn’t ban the worship of the other gods or deny their existence – he just pushed his favorite (at the expense of the priestly class, many of their temples, and quite a bit of their gold).
How hard did he push?
Hard enough that the push-back had a certain finality to it.
His successors attempted to wipe him – and his Atenism – from the records.
You’ve heard of one of them, or at the very least, have seen his likeness:
Back to Nefertiti:
She was the Great Royal Wife of Akhenaten; stepmother and mother-in-law of Tutankhamun and may have served as Pharaoh before the ascension of King Tut. She was referred to by many lovely epitaphs, including:
- Hereditary Princess (iryt-p`t)
- Great of Praises (wrt-Hzwt)
- Lady of Grace (nbt-im3t)
- Sweet of Love (bnrt-mrwt)
- Lady of The Two Lands (nbt-t3wy)
- Main King’s Wife, his beloved (Hmt-nswt-‘3t mryt.f)
- Great King’s Wife, his beloved (Hmt-nswt-wrt mryt.f)
- Lady of All Women (Hnwt-Hmwt-nbwt)
- Mistress of Upper & Lower Egypt (Hnwt-Shm’w-mhw).
And we know what she looked like. We have statues, reliefs and carvings.
And then we have a long lost, stucco-covered limestone sculpture…
During Akhenaten’s reign, he moved the capital from Thebes to what is now called Amarna; under the reign his descendant, Tutankhamun, the capital would go back to Thebes.
This left Amarna essentially abandoned, and very incomplete. Storefronts were left open; this included the workshop of the “The King’s Favorite and Master of Works, the Sculptor Thutmose“.
Indeed, Thutmose was a skilled sculptor.
When Amarna was rediscovered in the 19th century, so was his art.
This included a bust of Queen Nefertiti.
Stop me if you’ve you seen this movie:
Germans. Egypt. Ancient Artifacts.
Wonder who the baddies are?
Long story short, the German acquisition of Nefertiti’s bust became a matter of international conflict between Germany and Egypt…one which is still unresolved.
However, there was one brief moment when the Germans considered relenting.
In 1933, future Reichsmarschall Hermann Goring suggested that it might be politically advantageous to return the bust to King Fouad of Egypt.
Have you ever had a great idea at work and received positive responses from your colleagues, only to have your boss rip you a new orifice?
The Fuhrer was not amused with Goring’s suggested appeasement of the Egyptians.
So much so that he sent a communication directly to the Egyptian government, stating that he intended to build his very own Egyptian Museum in Germany dedicated to – you guessed it – Queen Nefertiti.
Some choice Hitler quotes about the museum, bust and queen:
“In the middle, this wonder, Nefertiti, will be enthroned”
“I will never relinquish the head of the Queen”
“[Nefertiti’s bust is] a unique masterpiece, an ornament, a true treasure”
“I am in love with Nefertiti”
So, what’s the takeaway?
The bust was crafted around 1345 B.C.E; it wasn’t unearthed until 1912. That’s a long time to sleep.
Since then, she’s spent over 100 years abroad, in no small part as a result of the whims of an art-loving, mass-murdering rabble-rouser.
I can’t help but imagine that by now,
the Queen is homesick.
Granted, there are many things to do in Berlin.
Still, I doubt she gets to experience much from behind her glass prison:
C’mon Neues Museum, Berlin. To quote Moses (who was an Egyptian prince, as per the Biblical account):
Let My People Go.
Send her home.