Neferneferuaten Nefertiti (1370 – 1330 BC)

Neferneferuaten Nefertiti (1370 – 1330 BC)

“Beautiful are the Beauties of Aten, the Beautiful one has come”

Egyptian queen and the Great Royal Wife (chief consort) of Akhenaten, an Egyptian Pharaoh. Nefertiti and her husband were known for a religious revolution, in which they worshiped one god only, Aten, or the sun disc. Akhenaten and Nefertiti were responsible for the creation of a whole new religion which changed the ways of religion within Egypt. With her husband, she reigned at what was arguably the wealthiest period of Ancient Egyptian history.

Some scholars believe that Nefertiti ruled briefly as Neferneferuaten after her husband’s death and before the accession of Tutankhamun, although this is still an ongoing debate.

Arles: A Van Gogh Getaway

On the cusp of the Camargue National Park in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region, Arles is a heady blast of Van Gogh nostalgia – the artist painted in excess of 200 works around this lovely Roman town. The stately amphitheatre, one of the largest in Roman times, is part of the reason for Arles’ Unesco World Heritage Site status. The twisting aluminium tower designed by Frank Gehry brings the city’s architecture bang up to date.

Venus Figurines

Figurines of women carved or sculpted from stone, ivory, or clay are a type of Paleolithic art found widely across Europe. These figurines share many striking similarities. While details such as facial features and feet are largely ignored, feminine sexual characteristics (breasts, belly, hips, thighs, and vulva) are often exaggerated. The focus on features related to sexuality and fertility, and the round body shapes depicted (during the Ice Age fat would have been a precious commodity) suggest that the figurines may have played a symbolic role as a charm relating to childbirth or, more generally, fertility.

Some researchers believe that the figures represent a “mother goddess,” but there is no real evidence for such an interpretation. Others have focused instead on the fact that the figurines demonstrate widely shared cultural ideas and symbols. These would have been crucial to social interactions and exchanges of resources, information, and potential marriage partners in the Ice Age world.

The Devil Heads (Želízy, Czech Republic)

The Devil Heads (Želízy, Czech Republic)

A disturbing sight awaits hikers exploring the forest above the village of Želízy in Czechia. Looking out over the Kokořínsko nature reserve, two enormous demonic faces carved from the native stone stare back with empty eyes.

Created by the renowned Czech sculptor Václav Levý in the mid-19th century, the nearly 30-foot-tall sandstone heads are known as Certovy Hlavy, or “the Devil Heads,” and they have been a local attraction for generations. Now suffering slightly from the ravages of time and weather, the monstrous faces have grown less distinct over time—but no less creepy.

The Rotting Body of René de Chalon (Bar-Le-Duc, Lorraine, France)

Saint-Étienne church, in the city of Bar-le-Duc, is home to a statue of a rotting corpse. Visible musculature and skin hang in flaps over the hollow carcass. The exposed skull looks toward a raised left hand, which once held the dried heart of René de Chalon, the 16th-century prince the statue depicts. (The heart is believed to have gone missing sometime around the French Revolution.)

The life-size sculpture by Ligier Richier is part of the “transi” Renaissance art form—stone sculptures of rotting bodies that served as a reminder of temporary flesh and eternal afterlife.

The postmortem statue of René de Chalon once held the man’s own dried heart.