Egypt vents fury at German museum for using Nefertiti bust in 'pornographic' video

A decision by German Egyptologists to lend a 3,000-year-old bust of the ancient Egyptian Queen Nefertiti for an allegedly "pornographic" exhibit at this year's Venice Biennale has provoked a blistering row between Berlin and Cairo.

The dispute deepened yesterday when Egypt demanded the immediate return of the priceless bust, which has been on show at Berlin's Egyptian museum for almost 90 years. Egypt then declared Dietrich Wildung, the museum's director, persona non grata.

Nefertiti, which means "beauty has arrived", was the wife of the ancient Egyptian ruler Akhenaten, pharaoh in about 1340BC. Her bust, with one eye missing, was discovered by German archaeologists in 1912. A year later it was taken to Berlin, where it has remained one of the city's foremost cultural attractions.

Faruk Husni, Egypt's Minister of Culture, insisted yesterday that the bust was "no longer safe in German hands and must be returned home". He condemned the use of the bust in the Biennale exhibit as "disgusting" and said it was an "insult".

Egypt's anger stems from a decision by Berlin's museum to allow a group of Hungarian artists, called Kish Warsaw, to make a video film of the bust, which shows the head of Nefertiti superimposed on what at first sight appears to be the torso of a naked woman cast in bronze.

To make the video, called Nefertiti's Body, the bust was removed from its glass cabinet for a few hours last month and placed on the bronze torso.

The only people present were Mr Wildung, the two artists and a handful of assistants. "I cannot understand what all the fuss is about," Mr Wildung said. "I personally removed the bust from its case. The whole atmosphere was more like the veneration of Nefertiti than an insult to her. Everyone was awed into silence," he added.

Mr Wildung maintains that the torso on which the bust is superimposed is not naked but covered in a thintransparent robe, which is visible on the original limestone statue. He conceded that in the video no clothing was apparent.

Berlin is unlikely to agree to part with one of its most treasured artefacts. The city authorities argue that an agreement signed between Imperial Germany and Egypt in 1913 gives the bust's German finders the right to keep it for ever.

Mr Wildung has accused the Egyptian side of overreacting. "I receive requests from artists who want to make use of Nefertiti almost monthly. I set the highest standards and I have only allowed it to be used once," he said.

The Venice Biennale begins on Monday.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: PHP / Drupal / SaaS Developer

£32000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A rapidly developing company in...

Ashdown Group: Application Architect/Developer - Peterborough

Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Application Architect/Developer - Peterborough, Cam...

Ashdown Group: C# Developer - (C#, VB.Net, SQL, Git, TDD)

Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Developer (C#, VB & ASP.Net, SQL Server, TSQL) - Pe...

Ashdown Group: Business Relationship Manager

Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Business Relationship Manager - Enfield, North Lond...

Day In a Page

Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea