Analysis of a Cycladic Sculpture at the Dallas Museum of Art

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1 SOUTHERN METHODIST UNIVERSITY ARHS 3311: Art of Ancient Greece Analysis of a Cycladic Sculpture at the Dallas Museum of Art Lindsey Kathryn Carrier

2 Cycladic Marble Figurine (DMA FA) The subject of my analytical paper is the Cycladic marble figurine ( BC) 1 from the Early Bronze Age Aegean ( BC). 2 Structurally it remains fully intact, with no portions broken off. This is likely due to its solid design. Though small and thin (27.79 x x 2.06 cm) its stiff, introverted pose and inhibited appendages has reduced the opportunity for its fragmentation significantly. 3 However, other decorative features have been lost. In its current state of preservation, the statuettes appearance is austere, as a generalized female form, abstracted by the distortion and exaggeration of her features. The blank face of the oblong, slanted head, comprised of only a sculpted nose, was originally painted with bright pigments to depict her now lost facial features. Due to the fading pigments and the natural weathering of time, the figurine s bare marble has developed some discoloration from tarnishing. 4 Though many examples of Cycladic statuary are known, the purpose of this figurine s categorical group referred to, as The Folded-Arm Form remains undetermined, as it confusingly has characteristics indicating numerous possibilities. As to be expected of the Dokasthismata variety, triangles dominate her female form. Her broad, angular shoulders and wide set breasts provide her with a corpulent torso, of which her arms fold across, left arm over right. Her lower body then tapers down her legs, ending at her pointed toes, which make her unable to stand upright. Many similar figurines have been found in a laying pose within burials. With her flat 1 Cycladic Marble Figurine: Idol, folded-arm form. Dallas Museum of Art, Foundation for the Arts Collection, The Mr. and Mrs. Stanley Marcus Collection of Fertility Figures. Dokasthismata variety (?): Greek; Cycladic, c B.C. Access Number: FA <http://collections.dallasmuseumofart.org/ > *NOTE: See Fig. 1 2 John Griffiths Pedley. Greek Art and Archaeology Fourth Edition. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2007 p Cycladic Marble Figurine: Idol, folded-arm form. Dallas Museum of Art: FA 4 Joan R. Mertens. Some Long Thoughts on Early Cycladic Sculpture. Metropolitan Museum Journal, Vol. 33 (1998). JStor. PONI: Southern Methodist University, Dallas, TX. Mar p. 10 2

3 depth and arms crossed over a sedentary body, the pose is reminiscent of the laying out position reserved for the dead, leading one to speculate on its purpose as funerary. 5 Below her arms an inverted triangle is carved indicating her female sex. The schematic design utilizes angular forms and simple, carved contour lines to draw visual emphasis to her symbolic feminine attributes, like her pubic triangle; a feature typical of fertility idols. Thus, one might surmise its purpose of this category of figurines was related specifically to fertility. 6 A similar example appropriate for this theory is another Cycladic female figurine of the Spedos type. This piece is sculpted in the same pose, yet its feminine features are not angular and flat, but softly rounded and she appears to be with child. But, while this upholds the fertility theory, it would be remiss to not mention this statuette was found among grave goods in the Naxos Cemetery. 7 In the absence of written material from the Early Cycladic era, along with the many paradoxical female figurines, there is still space for further hypothesis. As for Cycladic culture itself, this figurine as well as its contemporaries serve as outstanding examples of the profound changes among the Aegean cultures during the transition from the Late Neolithic to Bronze Age. The Cycladic Islands where located strategically in the Aegean; Southeast of mainland Greece, just West of Anatolia and North of Egypt. With the development of metallurgy, new bronze tools allowed Cycladic artisans to reach a new level of craftsmanship, offering more effective access to the mineral resources of their islands like 5 Christopher Chippindale and David W. J. Gill. Material and Intellectual Consequences of Esteem for Cycladic Figures. American Journal of Archaeology, Vol. 97, No. 4 (Oct., 1993). JStor. PONI: Southern Methodist University, Dallas, TX. Mar pp. 641, Joan R. Mertens. Some Long Thoughts on Early Cycladic Sculpture. Metropolitan Museum Journal, Vol. 33 (1998). JStor. PONI: Southern Methodist University, Dallas, TX. Mar pp Female figurine of the canonical type. Museum of Cycladic Art, Athens. Spedos variety (Syros phase): Greek; Early Cycladic II period: B.C. N.P. Goulandris Collection, Access Code: NG0309 <http://www.cycladic.gr/frontoffice/portal.asp?cpage=node&cnode=35&p=2> *NOTE: See Fig. 2 3

4 marble. 8 With more accurate and faster stone working techniques, coupled with the growth of maritime trade, the proliferation of Cycladic statuettes throughout different Aegean cultures resulted. 9 At their apex, Cycladic artisans became ever more geared up to challenge their artistic ability. Thus, with prestigious craftsmen and control of valuable minerals, the people of the Cycladic Islands prospered for much of the Early to Middle Bronze Age, continuing their stoneworking tradition for over five centuries before declining due to the misfortune of natural disaster and/or the submerging influence of Mycenae in the fifteenth century BC Joan R. Mertens. Some Long Thoughts on Early Cycladic Sculpture. Metropolitan Museum Journal, Vol. 33 (1998). JStor. PONI: Southern Methodist University, Dallas, TX. Mar pp Christopher Chippindale and David W. J. Gill. Material and Intellectual Consequences of Esteem for Cycladic Figures. American Journal of Archaeology, Vol. 97, No. 4 (Oct., 1993). JStor. PONI: Southern Methodist University, Dallas, TX. Mar p John Griffiths Pedley. Greek Art and Archaeology Fourth Edition. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2007 pp

5 Figure #1 Figure #2 1) Cycladic Marble Figurine: Idol, folded-arm form. Dallas Museum of Art, Foundation for the Arts Collection, The Mr. and Mrs. Stanley Marcus Collection of Fertility Figures. Dokasthismata variety (?): Greek; Cycladic, c B.C. Access Number: FA <http://collections.dallasmuseumofart.org/ > 2) Female figurine of the canonical type. Museum of Cycladic Art, Athens. Spedos variety (Syros phase): Greek; Early Cycladic II period: B.C. N.P. Goulandris Collection, Access Code: NG0309 <http://www.cycladic.gr/frontoffice/portal.asp?cpage=node&cnode=35&p=2> 5

6 BIBLIOGRAPHY Pedley, John Griffiths. Greek Art and Archaeology Fourth Edition. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, Chippindale, Christopher and David W. J. Gill. Material and Intellectual Consequences of Esteem for Cycladic Figures. American Journal of Archaeology, Vol. 97, No. 4 (Oct., 1993), pp JStor. PONI: Southern Methodist University, Dallas, TX. Mar Mertens, Joan R. Some Long Thoughts on Early Cycladic Sculpture. Metropolitan Museum Journal, Vol. 33 (1998), pp JStor. PONI: Southern Methodist University, Dallas, TX. Mar Cycladic Marble Figurine: Idol, folded-arm form. Dallas Museum of Art, Foundation for the Arts Collection, The Mr. and Mrs. Stanley Marcus Collection of Fertility Figures. Dokasthismata variety (?): Greek; Cycladic, c B.C. Access Number: FA < > Female figurine of the canonical type. Museum of Cycladic Art, Athens. Spedos variety (Syros phase): Greek; Early Cycladic II period: B.C. N.P. Goulandris Collection, Access Code: NG0309 <http://www.cycladic.gr/frontoffice/portal.asp?cpage=node&cnode=35&p=2> 6

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