The Joy of Museums

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Cycladic Figurine

Hellenic Museum, Melbourne - Joy of Museums - Cycladic Figurine

This “Cycladic Figurine” is a female of the “Folded-Arm” type. This marble sculpture is a fabulous creation of the Early Cycladic Culture and was probably associated with prehistoric Aegean religious beliefs. This figurine has red pigment traces which are preserved on the neck and head. The pigment is cinnabar, a bright red mineral, which was very precious at the time as it was imported  from outside the Aegean.

This masterpiece is of the Spedos type, named after an Early Cycladic cemetery on the Greek Island of Naxos, which is the most common of Cycladic figurine types. It has the widest distribution within the Cyclades as well as elsewhere, and the greatest longevity. All known works of the Spedos variety are female figures. Spedos figurines are typically slender elongated female forms with folded arms. They are characterized by U-shaped heads and a deeply incised cleft between the legs.

Cycladic Figures originated from the ancient Cycladic culture which flourished in the islands of the Aegean Sea from c. 3300 to 1100 BCE. The best-known art of this period and culture are the marble figures usually called Cycladic “idols” or “figurines”. The Cyclades is a group of Greek islands, southeast of the mainland in the Aegean Sea. It centres on the island of Delos, considered the birthplace of Apollo and is home to some of Greece’s most important archaeological ruins.

Aegean Sea with island groups labeled

The majority of these marble figures, are highly stylized representations of the female human form, typically having a flat, geometric quality. Depicted nude with arms folded across the stomach and the right arm held below the left. Featuring long, lyre-shaped head, a semi-conical nose, sloping shoulders, narrow arms, and rounded back.

In more recent time, artists such as Picasso, Matisse and Moore respected and collected Cycladic art as models of how one can create emotionally charged yet highly abstracted forms.

Other historical antiquities at the Hellenic Museum, Melbourne include:

Essential Facts:

  • Name:                 Cycladic Figurine
  • Date:                    2700 -2300 BCE
  • Period:                Early Cycladic II
  • Type:                   Early Spedos type, attributed to the Fitzwilliam Master
  • Material:            Marble
  • Museum:            Hellenic Museum, Melbourne

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“Honour is priceless and glad be he who has it.” Greek Proverb

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Photo Credit: By GordonMakryllos (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons 2) By I, the copyright holder of this work, hereby publish it under the following license: [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons