HITLER'S NEFERTITI (NOFRETETE) MYSTERY
Shangri-La Discovers Adolph Hitler's Private Gypsum Statue Bust of Nefertiti from Amarna Egypt
Shangrila Gifts and Art
are pleased to announce the discovery of a long forgotton gypsum bust of the Amarna Period Egyptian Queen Nefertiti, from a private estate in Berlin Germany, rescued from the World War II bombings of Adolf Hitler's private museum.
While for 90 years Egypt and Germany have been fighting for possession of one publically known and famous bust of this stunning Egyptian queen from the Amarna period, the sculpture of Nefertiti (Nofretete) from Adolf Hitler's own collection has gone unnoticed because it was held privately.
This study explores the questions of provenance and identity of this intriguing artifact. Is Hitler's private Nefertiti bust a recent copy or an antiquity in disguise? If the former, of which bust is it a copy and if the latter, how does this new portrait fit within the cotext of the other Nefertiti portraits from Tell Amarna?
ADOLPH HITLER AND NEFERTITI
It is no secret that Adolf Hitler was smitten with love for the ancient Egyptian queen Khenemet Nefertiti Hedjet. In 1933, the Egyptian government made the first of many demands over the decades for Nefertiti's return. Among his many titles Hermann Goering was premier of Prussia (which included Berlin) and, as such, Goering suggested to King Fouad I of Egypt that Nefertiti would soon be back in Cairo in exchange for political alliances between Germany and Egypt.
But Hitler had other plans. Through the ambassador to Egypt, Eberhard von Stohrer, Hitler informed the Egyptian government that he was an ardent fan of Nefertiti: "I know this famous bust," the fuehrer wrote. "I have viewed it and marveled at it many times. Nefertiti continually delights me. The bust is a unique masterpiece, an ornament, a true treasure!"
Hitler said Nefertiti had a place in his dreams of rebuilding Berlin and renaming it Germania.
"Do you know what I'm going to do one day? I'm going to build a new Egyptian museum in Berlin," Hitler went on. "I dream of it. Inside I will build a chamber, crowned by a large dome. In the middle, this wonder, Nefertiti, will be enthroned. I will never relinquish the head of the Queen."
Hitler and his mad dreams are long dead. But Nefertiti continues to smile serenely. As she has for 3,300 years. As if to say, this too shall pass but I endure.
Which bust of Nefertiti was Hitler refering to remains a mystery, since there were several in Berlin at the time. It is likely that he was writing about the public famous bust, but he controlled an entire collection of Nefertiti portraits all excavated by Ludwig Borchardt and financially sponsored by Dr. James Simon (1851-1932), a Jewish Berlin merchant, through the Deutsche Orient-Gesellschaft expedition to Amarna in Middle Egypt in 1907 and 1911 to 1914. Borchardt was the director of the Deutsche Institut in Kairo from 1906 to 1929, after which he returned to Germany. In 1938 he moved to Paris. James Simon has recently been honored in Germany for his contributions to Egyptology and his descendants who survived the holocaust live in England and Beverly Hills, California.
At Shangri-La, we have recently pieced together another facet in Adolph Hitler's obsession with the ancient Egyptian Queen Nefertiti, here made public for the first time.
THE FAMOUS BERLIN BUST OF NEFERTITI
When most people think of "Nefertiti" they recall the famous wayward beauty who recently moved again, not back to Egypt, but across town from a converted guard house in what used to be West Berlin to more royal surroundings in the heart of the reunited Berlin.
The painted limestone and plaster bust, depicting the elegantly chiseled life-sized features of a stunningly beautiful woman wearing a unique cone-shaped headdress, has formed the cornerstone of Berlin's Egyptian collection since the German archaeologist discovered the bust in the ruins of an ancient artist's studio on the banks of the Nile in 1912.
The sculptor Thutmosis has now achieved world-wide fame for this bust of Queen Nefertiti, the wife of the "Heretic Pharaoh" Ekhnaton. But what many do not know is that this 3,300-year-old bust of 18th Dynasty Nefertiti was only one of many great masterpieces of ancient Egyptian art depicting the same person and from the same artist's workshop. According to archaeological field records, she was found in Building P. 47, Room 19 of the atelier of the sculptor Thutmosis. In his studio were found 30 additional realistic busts and plaster models, showing the queen in slightly different ways.
An alluring mystery surrounded the bust since its discovery on Dec. 7, 1912, incredibly intact and sporting vibrant colors, after lying in forgotten in the sands since the tumultuous days at the close of the reign of Pharaoh Akhenaton, one of the most enigmatic rulers of all time. Nefertiti, having rested for 3,200 years in the desert, was awoken to a new world full of passions and struggles. In 1913, the Ottoman Empire supposedly allowed its finder, part-time German-Jewish archaeologist and full-time entrepreneur, James Simon, to retain possession of the bust. But some have claimed that he and Borchardt hid the bust from official view. In either case, Simon carted it off to Europe and displayed Nefertiti prominently in his Berlin home, then he lent it to the Berlin museum and finally donating it in 1920 to the Berlin collection.
The Nefertiti collection initially was housed at the Neues Museum (New Museum) just a few meters from the Hohenzollern Palace in the heart of Berlin. Reflecting the fashion of the times, the museum itself was decorated to resemble an ancient Egyptian temple, complete with hieroglyphic inscriptions.
But as bombs rained down on Berlin during World War II, curators hastily stashed the city's art treasures at warehouses outside the city. After the war, some of those warehouses turned out to be in East Germany, and others in West Germany.
The famous Nefertiti portrait ended up in the west and took up residency in West Berlin's makeshift Egyptian museum in a converted guard house across the street from Charlottenburg Palace. But the bulk of the Berlin Egyptian collection remained in the east, and was on view at the Bode Museum in East Berlin until the Berlin Wall came down.
Since then, the city has been working to renovate and even rebuild the 19th Century museum complex.
But what did Nefertiti really look like in real life? To what extend was she really the ideal image of beauty as depicted in the famous bust? How much had the artist Thutmosis deviated from her actual appearence to render his concept of artistic perfection? This newly discovered portrait bust may reveal much to answer these questions.
NEWLY REDISCOVERED HITLER NEFERTITI
The portrait bust currently in the Shangri-La collection and formerly from a private collection in Berlin is a unique item with an official stamp on its base of the Nazi museum, in Berlin. The work may have been intended for the Haus der Deutschen Kunst
, in Munich. There appears to be a runic "AH" followed by 537 carved on the base. Similar runic "AH" monograms were placed on personal items belonging to Adolf Hitler and the numbers 537 could be a registration number or refer to a date in 1937, the year that museum opened. Hitler's photographer Heinrich Hoffmann and museum director Karl Kolb were in charge of choosing art works for annual exhibits, but it is unclear how this piece could have related. Alternatively, this work could have been hidden away as part of Hitler's planned for National Socialist museum of art in the Austrian city of Linz; a dream that was never fully realized by the Fuehrer, although many thousands of art works were obtained for the project. The Linz museum project remains one of World War II's most enduring mysteries, but there is no indication that Hitler's Nefertiti ever left Berlin, until recently.
In 1943, Hitler created the Sonderauftrag Linz
(Special Assignment Linz) to set up an art collection for the Austrian city of the same name on the Danube river. Almost exclusively financed by funds earned through sales of Hitler's book Mein Kampf
and from special stamps showing his portrait, the Linz collection was mostly the Fuehrer's private project.
It was first thought by the current owners that this piece was an excellently crafted early 20th century reproduction produced under the auspices of Adolf Hitler, perhaps as one of many used as gifts for close friends. However, the bust is made of soft calcite, covered in gypsum plaster and several layers of pigment and constructed in a manner consistant with ancient Egyptian technologies. Furthermore, we have been unable to identify any known original sculpture of Nefertiti that has the exact same features as this portrait bust. Most strikingly, when compared with other known portrait busts, this work is more life like than others and has features that appear to have been used in different ways in the other renderings. Finally, the left ear lobe appears to have some type of ear plug, while the right ear has a hole. As a result of these observations, we are now speculating that this piece is rendering of a life mask of Queen Nefertiti, instead of an artistic rendering. The piece in our posession is either an original first generation sculpture based on a life mask made in ancient Egypt or an expertly crafted copy of such a piece that was lost in WWII and made in Nazi Germany. In the second possibility, it would appear that the original has been lost or destroyed and we are fortunate to possess this expertly crafted copy. Finally, the plaster in the base which has the Nazi impression is chipping loose from the rest of the sculpture and is composed of a different type of material from the sculpture itself. It therefore seems that the Nazi impression was added subsequent to the sculpture's production and that the sculpture could reasonably be a previously lost art treasure from New Kingdom Egypt.
To the left and right, are images of a granite bust also from the workshop of Amarna sculptor Thutmosis. It resembles the new realistic bust in that the face is rather elongated and the features are delicate. However this granite face is far more symetrical and the features are considerably more defined. In part, these were factors of the medium used, a hard stone, but it is clear that the artist has also idealized and standardized features. The chin is not as pronounced as the newly discovered sculpture and the eyes are too similar to each other and the neck has been elongated.
Below, another granite rendering of Nefertiti, now in the Cairo Museum, Egypt, depicts this queen with a much broader face and wider mouth, however the eyes closely resemble the newly discovered sculpture from Hitler's private collection. The nose and proportions of the upper face are also very similar.
Taken together, these two very different granite carvings both reveal features found in the naturalistic bust. They also depart in radically different directions of idealized artistic convention.
Hree we see a comparison of a famous granite bust of Nefertiti from the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. Note especially the differences in the eyes and mouth. Hitler's Nefertiti is a far more life-like rendering in all aspects.
Yet another sculpture from the workshop of sculptor Thutmosis is a terracotta now in Berlin. Like the Cairo Granite, this work has a broader jaw line, fuller cheeks and shorter chin than the newly found Hitler Nefertiti.
Perhaps the closest comparison to the recently found Hitler Nefertiti is yet another bust from Berlin, which appears to be unpainted limestone. The two depictions have such a close resemblence that we first believed one to be a copy of the other. However, after close inspection, there are clearly subtle differences. Note for instance the shape of the chin and nose. Most strikingly, the bust in the Berlin Museum has a fuller face, especially in the area of the jaw.
Finally, note the left ear. In both there appears to be something protruding below the ear lobe. In the case of the recently discovered bust, this is clearly an earring. Also note that the details of the ears are different.
It is therefore quite clear that even in the case of such close pieces, neither is the copy of the other, but rather they are different artistic renderings or variations of the same source.