I don’t think I’d ever seen a purple rose before this bouquet arrived from the florist one day. Not only was the color regal — “born to the purple” describes a status as well as a hue — but the very set of this flower seemed regal to me.
The confident angle of the rose jogged my memory. What does this remind me of? Of course! The bust of the Egyptian queen Nefertiti. If a rose is the floral icon of the eternal feminine, the bust of Queen Nefertiti is its sculptural icon:
The Great Royal Wife (and sister) of the Egyptian Pharaoh Akhnaten, Nefertiti is 3,300 years young. She was crafted in 1345 BC, probably by the sculptor Thutmose, and she is unquestionably one of the most famous women of the ancient world.
The Hub and I saw her in her current home, the Neues Museum in Berlin, some years ago. I had been afraid that, like many other much-heralded works of art, the thing itself would not live up to its publicity. (The Venus de Milo doesn’t do much for me, nor does the Mona Lisa. No doubt my failing, not theirs, but still.)
We found her in a small room all by herself, in a glass case. The room was dark, the case was spot lit, and I — was mesmerized. I could not take my eyes off the regal face. I walked around and around, drinking her in from every angle. Even the milky empty socket of the left eye could not detract from her radiance. Simply put, she is perfect. Every inch a queen, every inch the beautiful woman. We spent a long time together that longago morning, she and I.
And once that memory had been jogged, the purple rose in my bouquet recalled that royal form and meaning for me. The rose itself is now long wilted and gone, but the photo remains to remind me of Nefertiti, and of a marvelous truth. Roses may live and die. So do human beings. But there is beauty that exists beyond life and death, and when we glimpse it, we too — for a moment at least — share in the eternal.