Queen Nefertiti as a Significant Historical Figure in the Coloring Book

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Queen Nefertiti as a Significant Historical Figure in the Coloring Book

The influence and admiration of Ancient Egypt's Queen Nefertiti in the modern world is quite apparent, particularly in children's literature. "A Coloring Book of Queen Nefertiti" is a prime example. This 18-page coloring book includes black-outline illustrations of various aspects of ancient Egyptian history pertaining to Queen Nefertiti. Also incorporated are brief anecdotes pertaining to the pictures, written in simple language appropriate for ten to 13 year olds, though this was probably not the intended target age bracket. The language is probably too complex for younger children, (ironic as the prime age for coloring book use is three to eight years old); however these passages can easily be read to them by a parent, teacher, or older sibling, and hold great educational value for the child and adult alike. Placed prominently on the glossy front cover is an image of Nefertiti's famous bust portrait from a well-known Berlin museum.

The Nefertiti bust portrait, from Ancient Egypt's 18th Dynasty, was created sometime between 1348 and 1336 B.C. and now resides in the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Agyptisches Museum. (Stokstad, 120) It was found in the studio of its believed sculptor, Tuthmose, at the then-capital city, Akhetaten. Because bust portraits during this time were a rarity, scholars believe that Tuthmose may have created the bust simply as a model for future sculptures and paintings of Nefertiti. Though it is generally known from ancient depictions of sculptors at work that statues were sometimes created in parts and then assembled, it is believed that this bust was never intended to be part of a full-bodied statue. (Stokstad, 120)

The illustration of the Nefertiti bust on the cover of the coloring book and the actual bust itself are physically similar in many ways, but they also differ significantly. The basic depiction is the same; Nefertiti faces towards the viewer's right side, has the same general facial and dress features, and features the same proportions. The physical similarities end there, however. The actual bust measures twenty inches (51 cm) in height, while the coloring book's depiction is a mere 9.5 inches (24 cm). The true bust, of course, gives us more definition in facial features because of its use of three-dimensional representation. For example, Nefertiti's cheekbone is prominent on the bust, but is completely absent on the coloring book cover. The two representations also differ drastically in color.

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While the coloring book illustration features a bold blue headdress, the bust features a dark teal one. On the coloring book, Nefertiti's neckpiece features the three primary colors, red, yellow and blue, while all that remains in terms of color on the actual bust is a dark teal to match the crown. On the actual bust, Nefertiti's irises are a light hazel, while the coloring book depicts them as black. These color differences are present for two reasons: 1) Only certain colors were available to the coloring book illustrator due to budget constraints, and 2) Change and/or deterioration of the various colors on the actual bust has inevitably occured. One other prominent physical difference between the two representations is in physical state. While the coloring book depiction features a perfect outline, solid colors, and no physical flaws, the actual bust has sustained damage throughout the centuries, including scratches, chips (note the ear on the bust) and the complete loss of the snake symbol on the headdress.

In addition to the differences in physical features of the two works, the distinction in the meanings must also be looked at. In both depictions, Nefertiti is depicted as very beautiful. This has slightly different meanings for the viewer of the bust and the owner of the coloring book because the contexts are quite different. The average viewer of the bust (if it was in fact meant to be viewed) would be a subject of Queen Nefertiti and her royal husband King Akhenaten. Subjects referred to their queen as "Fair of Face," "Mistress of Happiness," "Great of Love," and "Endowed with Favors." (Stokstad, 120) One can speculate that this beautiful bust reinforced this way of viewing Nefertiti among the subjects; Nefertiti was to be respected, admired and loved by her subjects. The same, of course, is not expected of the juvenile owners of the Queen Nefertiti coloring book. The written anecdotes in the coloring book are mostly factual and do imply that Nefertiti was a Queen to be respected by her subjects but users of the coloring book are not expected to admire or love her in the ways that her subjects did. The most that can be expected of the coloring book user is a respect for Queen Nefertiti as a significant historical figure.


Stokstad, Marilyn. ART HISTORY. New Jersey: Prentice Hall, Inc, 1995.

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