In 1913, the year Ernst Ludwig Kirchner finished his Berlin Street Scene, an Egyptian beauty came to the German capital. Now, almost a hundred years later, Egypt’s antiquities chief, Zahi Hawass, is seeking to return Nefertiti’s bust from the German foundation and the Neue Museum which displays it. The epic sculpture (left) reportedly draws over one million visitors annually.
On January 28, 2011, Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit refused to return the 3,400-year-young bust of the most famous ancient Egyptian queen to modern-day Egypt arguing that this important artifact, excavated by a German archaeologist in 1912, was acquired lawfully and Egypt has no legal claims to it. However, Hawass claims that at the time of discovery, the bust was mistakenly exported, and is thus still rightfully owned by Egypt.
Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) appealed to the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, which runs the Neues Museum, to return this and other archaeological and historical artifacts that have been taken illicitly out of the country. The claim for the Nefertiti’s bust is just one of the host of request made for pharaonic treasures in recent years, including the Rosetta Stone now in the British Museum.
According to Reuters, the request from Hawass is not signed by Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif. According to Hawass, the request was approved by the Prime Minster and the Egyptian Ministry of Culture.