Cycladic Stone Fertility Sculpture

SKU X.0202



3000 BC to 2000 BC


9.5″ (24.1cm) high





Gallery Location



Like many other ancient civilizations, we know about the Bronze Age culture that inhabited the Cyclades only through the archaeological material they left behind. Among the series of islands clustered across the Aegean Sea, there exists evidence of a flourishing culture centered around fortified, densely populated settlements whose livelihood was naturally based on the sea and maritime trade. Excavations of early tombs have unearthed jugs, pots, and bowls decorated with geometric patterns; however, the Cycladic culture is best known today for their magnificent marble sculptures. The abundance of high quality white marble on most of the islands encouraged the wide use of this stone for both sacred works of art as well as functional tools and implements. Although a variety of different figures have been discovered, including musicians, perhaps the most distinctive examples of the Cycladic style are the abstract representations of female fertility goddesses such as this one.

They are generally depicted with their arms folded just above their stomachs, the exact posture of this idol. Sometimes their bellies are slightly swollen, suggesting pregnancy; however, here, the swelling is much more subtle. A flat, oval face with a protruding triangular nose is a hallmark of the style, wonderfully captured in this example. The emphasis on the linear forms of the body is another traditional characteristic of the Cycladic style, with incised lines used two indicate the join of the neck to the torso and to highlight the waist. In complete examples of such fertility goddesses, their feet are represented stretched downwards. This fact has led some scholars to surmise that these idols were not meant to be standing up, but instead reclining. Multiple fertility goddesses have been found in a single tomb, suggesting that they must have played as important a role in the afterlife as they did in the daily lives of the Ancient Cycladic people. While many ancient cultures have no doubt disappeared from the pages of history forever, it is thanks to stunning works of art such as this idol that the Cycladic culture was rediscovered, never to be forgotten again.

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