10 Best Makeup Look Quiz

Nefertiti

The most famous Egyptian queen alongside Cleopatra, Nefertiti is synonymous with ancient beauty even her name itself means the beautiful one has come. The main reason she continues to figure so prominently in our collective imagination as a beauty icon is the famous bust of her likeness, made of limestone and covered with layers of painted stucco. Created around 1340 BC by the royal court sculptor, Thutmose, and discovered in 1912, it is now displayed in its own room in the Berlin Egyptian Museum (though the Egyptian authorities have been requesting its return for many years).

One of the most important and famous works of Egyptian art, it also provides an interesting insight into ancient beauty values. X-rays and scans were performed on the bust in 1992 and 2009, with the latter scan providing enough detail to see the wrinkles on the limestone core of the sculpture and showed that the inner and outer faces differ in some aspects. The inner face has less-prominent cheekbones, creases and wrinkles around the edge of the mouth and cheeks, a bumpier nose, and less depth at the corners of the eyelids. The original article written on the 2009 scan notes that the face seen on the limestone core could have been a realistic depiction of the queen, leading newspapers to claim that, through the tweaks made to the outer layer of her 3,300-year-old bust, Nefertiti was the first woman to have been retouched. Ancient Egyptian women were usually depicted in art as idealized figures, and there’s a consensus that signs of aging such as sagging breasts and wrinkled faces are only shown in representations of the lower classes,8 which Nefertiti’s hidden wrinkles bear out.

Idealized outer layers or not, Nefertiti’s high cheekbones, arched and defined eyebrows, enigmatic painted smile, and black outlined eyes are strikingly similar to the makeup styles that were popular in the twenties and remain so today. When the bust was first displayed to the public in 1924, the global reaction was immediate: It was a sensation. Following the discovery of Tutankhamen’s tomb in 1922, Egyptomania was everywhere and most certainly had a strong influence on the makeup trends of the time. In 1929 UK Vogue ran a beauty article titled The Kohl Pots of Egypt, describing the toilette of Tutankhamen’s wife, Queen Ankhesenamen, who was Nefertiti’s daughter. Though what is considered beautiful undeniably varies between cultures and different periods of time, it is hard not to view Nefertiti’s beauty which continues to speak to us thousands of years after she died as something transcendent and timeless. As Nancy Etcoff has commented, the general genetic features of a face that give rise to perception of beauty may be universal.

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