I didn’t understand the fuss. Sure, the redesign of Berlin’s Neues Museum — unveiled last October — seemed awfully nice; the place was finally fixed its World War II-era damage. But for all the queues that wind around the museum and the sell-out exhibitions, most of the fuss centered on one Egyptian bust. The Nefertiti bust looked pretty enough on the museum’s website and in the news stories, but I didn’t think it seemed like anything worth standing around for hours to see.

Art as Plunder: The Ancient Origins of Debate about Cultural Property by Margaret M. Miles. 440 pages. Cambridge University Press. $32.99 (new in paperback).

Or so I thought. When I finally got around to seeing it, the 3,500-year-old bust seemed to glow with its own light. Like all powerful religious and royal artwork, it inspires an… More…