Female Figure of the Kapsala type

Object Details

Title:

Female Figure of the Kapsala type

Artist/Maker:

Possibly the Kontoleon Master (Cycladic, active 2700 - 2600 B.C.)

Culture:

Cycladic

Place:

Cyclades, Greece (Place created)

Date:

2700–2600 B.C.

Medium:

Marble

Object Number:

88.AA.78

Dimensions:

49 × 9.9 × 6.6 cm (19 5/16 × 3 7/8 × 2 5/8 in.)

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By about 2700 B.C., Cycladic sculptors had developed a form of carved figure that would become canonical: a reclining female with folded arms. The Kapsala type, named after an Early Cycladic cemetery on the island of Amorgos, is the earliest of these canonical types. Kapsala figures tend to have slender and elongated proportions. In an effort to avoid breakage, the legs of the figure are only partially separated. However, the feet of this figure have broken off. Anatomical features such as the arms are modeled three-dimensionally, whereas in later types, sculptors rendered this feature with incised lines. The Getty Museum's piece is an unusually large example of the Kapsala type.

Sculptors living on different islands produced marble figurines in a similar style but with distinctive variations. The recognition of different artistic personalities in Cycladic sculpture is based upon recurring systems of proportion and details of execution. This figure is attributed to the Kontoleon Master, who was active sometime in the period from 2700 to 2600 B.C. More than eight of his figures, all of the sort scholars call the Kapsala type, survive. The figures display distinctive features of the artist's style: a long, broad-cheeked, oval face with a delicate nose and prominent chin; a rather long neck; long thighs above short calves; small feet; no toes or fingers; and an incised spine. Like all artists in this early period, the Kontoleon Master's real name is unknown, and he is identified only by the style of his work. Scholars have named this sculptor after Nikolaos Kontoleon, an archaeologist who excavated in the Cyclades.

Within Cycladic culture, the figures’ role and meaning remain elusive. Those with known archaeological contexts come mainly from graves. Most figures cannot stand, as their feet and toes point downward. They may have been meant to lie on their backs, as their folded arms suggest repose. In ceremonial use however, the figures would have been held or carried upright in procession. Hundreds of fragments were found in a sanctuary on the island of Keros, deliberately shattered and ritually discarded. It is uncertain whether such generic images depict human beings or deities, but the nude female figures are probably linked with fertility and the life cycle, a central spiritual concern in the ancient Mediterranean.

Provenance
by 1977 - 1988

Paul Steiner, Austrian, 1913 - 1996

-

and Marianne Steiner, German (New York, New York), sold to the Safani Gallery, 1988.

1988

Safani Gallery (New York, New York), sold to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1988.

Exhibitions
The Art of the Cyclades: An Exhibition of Sculpture and Artifacts of the Early Cycladic Period, 3000-2000 B.C. (May 7 to June 18, 1983)
  • Safani Gallery (New York), May 7 to June 18, 1983
Ancient Art from the Permanent Collection (March 16, 1999 to May 23, 2004)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), March 16, 1999 to May 23, 2004
Silent Witnesses: Early Cycladic Art of the Third Millennium B.C. (April 4 to June 30, 2002)
  • Onassis Cultural Center (New York), April 4 to June 30, 2002
Prehistoric Arts of the Eastern Mediterranean (February 11 to May 4, 2003)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), February 11 to May 4, 2003
Bibliography

Thimme, Juergen, ed. Art and Culture of the Cyclades in the Third Millennium B.C. (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1977), pp. 265 and 466, cat. no. 157.

Safani Gallery, New York. The Art of the Cyclades. An Exhibition of Sculpture and Artifacts of the Early Cycladic Period, 3000-2000 B.C. May 7-June 18, 1983, cat. no. 3, ill.

Getz-Preziosi, Pat. Early Cycladic Art in North American Collections. Exh. cat., Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (Richmond, Virginia: 1987), 154, cat. no. 22.

Getz-Preziosi, Pat. Sculptors of the Cyclades (Ann Arbor: 1987), p. 157.

"Acquisitions/1988." The J. Paul Getty Museum Journal 17 (1989), p. 108, no. 5.

"U.S. Museum Acquisitions." Minerva 1, 6 (1990), pp. 43-47, p. 46; fig. 2.

Theodorou, J. "Cycladic Art at the Getty." The Greek American (July 25, 1992), p. 9, ill.

Gill, David W. J., and C. Chippendale. "Material and Intellectual Consequences of Esteem for Cycladic Figures." American Journal of Archaeology 97, no. 4 (October 1993), pp. 607-8, n. 68.

Getz-Preziosi, Pat. Early Cycladic Sculpture. Rev. ed. (Malibu: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1994), fig. 16.

Getz-Gentle, Pat. Personal Styles in Early Cycladic Sculpture (Madison: 2001), p. 155.

Doumas, Christos G. Silent Witnesses: Early Cycladic Art of the Third Millennium B.C., exh. cat. Alexander S. Onassis Public Benefit Foundation (USA), April 9-June 15, 2002 (New York: Onassis Foundation, 2002), p. 75, no. 21.