Nefertiti’s bust is perhaps the most iconic, recognizable piece of art from ancient Egypt.
This Nefertiti art history lesson explores the regal power and majesty of Egypt’s most fabled queen.
It includes a lovely, accessible art project that is the perfect complement to an elementary-level unit on Egyptology, art history, or the ancient world.
Who was Nefertiti?
Nefertiti’s name is a haunting melody of power, beauty, and mystery.
Nefertiti, whose name means “the beautiful one has come,” appeared in the ancient Egyptian world during the tumultuous 14th century BCE—–a period marked by profound political and religious upheaval.
The sun god Aten, once a mere facet of the pantheon, ascended to prominence under the reign of Akhenaten, Nefertiti’s husband.
Akhenaten, the “heretic pharaoh,” sought to replace the traditional polytheistic beliefs with the monotheistic worship of Aten. And at his side stood Nefertiti, his queen and muse.
It is in the art of this era that Nefertiti truly comes to life. Her likeness, immortalized in the iconic bust that bears her name, is a testament to the astonishing skill of ancient Egyptian artisans.
Crafted in the year 1345 BCE, this masterpiece has been described as “a symphony in limestone,” a lyrical expression of grace and dignity.
The Nefertiti bust, with its finely chiseled features and elongated neck, seems to transcend the boundaries of time and space. The secrets of an ancient world are etched in her eyes with the subtle play of light and shadow.
In this Nefertiti art history lesson, we unearth a treasure trove of artistic achievements from her era.
The Amarna Period, named after the city Akhenaten built to honor Aten, witnessed a profound shift in Egyptian art. Traditional conventions were abandoned, and artists embraced a newfound naturalism. No longer were pharaohs depicted as unattainable deities but as mortal beings with human flaws and virtues.
Nefertiti herself is portrayed in this style, with a grace and intimacy never before seen in Egyptian art.
The Amarna art style is characterized by its depiction of the human form, particularly the female form, with a sensuous fluidity.
The use of sunlight and shadow to create depth and dimension, a technique known as “sunken relief,” became a hallmark of this period.
Nefertiti, as the foremost female figure of her time, became a symbol of the Amarna aesthetic, embodying the ideals of beauty and elegance.
Yet, for all the artistic glory of the Amarna Period, it was a time of upheaval and uncertainty.
Akhenaten’s religious reforms provoked fierce opposition, and upon his death, Egypt returned to its traditional beliefs.
Nefertiti’s fate remains a subject of debate among historians. Some speculate that she ruled as a pharaoh in her own right under the name Neferneferuaten, while others suggest she vanished from the historical record, her legacy shrouded in mystery.
In the end, this Nefertiti art history lesson helps kids to appreciate her not just as a queen of unparalleled beauty, but a symbol of an era of artistic revolution and cultural transformation.
Her image, captured in stone and paint, continues to captivate the world, inviting us to explore the depths of ancient Egypt’s artistic soul.
Nefertiti, the beautiful one who has come, still beckons to us across the millennia, an enduring muse for those who seek to unlock the secrets of the past.
Nefertiti Art Project
You’ll be stunned by how beautiful this mixed-media Nefertiti art project comes out. It’s the perfect combination of guidance and freedom that makes children’s art magical.
With simple materials like oil pastels and crafting jewels, it’s fun, vibrant, and just a little messy.
You will need:
*camera (a phone camera is fine) and printer
*brown paper bags (or parchment paper, if you want to get fancy)
*a ruler or straight edge
*crafting beads or old jewelry
PLEASE NOTE: If you’re a teacher, this project is meant to be done over multiple class periods, so planning is key!
Step 1: Photograph the kids.
Take some time to photograph the kids in natural, soft light (the shadow of a building works well). Make sure they are in the profile. It helps to instruct the kids to tuck their hair behind their ears if it’s long.
Step 2: Print photos & cut them out.
Print the photos and instruct the kids to cut them out, encouraging to cut tight along the facial line and keeping some of the hair and neckline.
Step 3: Outlines.
Have the kids glue their pictures on brown paper, leaving some space between the bottom of the neck and the bottom line of the paper like so:
Allow the glue to dry.
Using a straight edge, have the kids draw two straight lines, one from the left bottom side of the neck, and one from the right. It should form a rough triangle with the head at the top.
Form the headpiece by drawing do non-parallel lines from the head (they don’t need to be the same length) and then connect the ends with another line.
Step 4: The fun part.
Give the kids oil pastels. Encourage them to stay inside the lines of the shirt and headpiece, but let them use any colors or shapes they want. Encourage them to fill out the whole headpiece and shirt.
If they wish, let them draw eyeliner with the black Sharpies to symbolize the black kohl ancient Egyptians used on their eyes to indicate rank & provide spiritual protection.
Then, glue crafting jewels and beads to complete the look.