The J. Paul Getty Museum

Female Figure of the Late Spedos Type

Object Details

Title:

Female Figure of the Late Spedos Type

Artist/Maker:

Attributed to the Steiner Master (Cycladic, active 2500 - 2400 B.C.)

Culture:

Cycladic

Place:

Cyclades, Greece (Place Created)

Date:

2500–2400 B.C.

Medium:

Marble

Object Number:

88.AA.80

Dimensions:

59.9 × 12.2 × 4.5 cm (23 9/16 × 4 13/16 × 1 3/4 in.)

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Object Description

Reclining with her arms crossed, this female figure is typical of the sculpture of the Cyclades in the mid-2000s B.C. known as the Spedos variety, named after an Early Cycladic cemetery on the island of Naxos. This group is one of the most common and widespread examples of the canonical female figure types, characterized by a slender elongated body with folded arms, a U-shaped head, and deeply incised cleft between the legs. Details of the human form are reduced to a minimum, giving the figure a flat, geometric quality. Incisions on the Getty’s example delineate the arms from the body, define the abdomen and pubic triangle, and indicate fingers and toes. The breasts are lightly modeled. The nose is the only carved feature on the head, and other details may originally have been enhanced with brightly colored pigments. Viewed from the side, the back is straight and continues the line of the neck, while the head is slightly arched and the knees gently flexed, a further characteristic trait of the late Spedos 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 Steiner Master, who was active sometime in the period from 2500 to 2400 B.C. Like all artists at this early period, his real name is unknown, and he is identified only by the style of his work. At least seven figurines can be assigned to this artist. All display a U-shaped head with broad cheeks and slender nose; a short, broad neck; and straight, stiff legs. The sculptor takes his name from this figure in the Getty Museum, once in the Steiner collection, which is the largest and perhaps the latest known work by him.

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 therefore 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 fact that the majority of Early Cycladic figures are female, and are represented nude, suggests they are probably linked with the idea of fertility and reproduction, which was often a central spiritual concern of ancient Mediterranean religions.

Provenance
Provenance
by 1983 - 1988

Paul Steiner, Austrian, 1913 - 1996 and Marianne Steiner, German, 1919 - 2021 (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
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
Bibliography

Ebertshauser, H.C. and M. Walz. ANTIKEN I: Vasen-Bronzen-Terrakotten des klassischen Altertums. (Munich 1981), fig. 1.

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. 4, ill.

Getz-Preziosi, P. "Five Sculptors in Cycladica." Studies in Memory of N.P. Goulandris (London: 1984). pp. 48-54, fig. 1:4, 8-10 (d).

Getz-Preziosi, Pat. Early Cycladic Sculpture (Malibu: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1985), pl. VI c-d; fig. 77.

Getz-Preziosi, Pat. Early Cycladic Art in North American Collections. Exh. cat., Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (Richmond, Virginia: 1987), p. 203, cat. no. 54.

Getz-Preziosi, Pat. Sculptors of the Cyclades (Ann Arbor: 1987), pp. 92-95, pls. 28-30.

"Acquisitions/1988." The J. Paul Getty Museum Journal 17 (1989), pp. 108-9, no. 7.

"U.S. Museum Acquisitions." Minerva 1, 6 (1990), pp. 43-47, p. 46; fig. 4.

The J. Paul Getty Museum Handbook of the Collections. 3rd ed. (Malibu: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1991), p. 18.

Birge, D. "Field Notes." Archeological News 17, nos. 1-4 (1992), p. 41.

The J. Paul Getty Museum Handbook of the Collections. 4th ed. (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1997), p. 18.

Towne Markus, Elana. Masterpieces of the J. Paul Getty Museum: Antiquities. (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1997), p. 17.

The J. Paul Getty Museum Handbook of the Collections. 6th ed. (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2001), p. 18.

Getz-Gentle, Pat. Personal Styles in Early Cycladic Sculpture (Madison: 2001), p. 79; p. 159, checklist #6; pl. 67c.

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. 79, no. 25.

The J. Paul Getty Museum Handbook of the Antiquities Collection (Los Angeles: 2002), p. 9.

Grossman, Janet Burnett. Looking at Greek and Roman Sculpture in Stone (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2003), pp. 38, ill.

Spivey, Nigel and Squire, Michael. Panorama of the Classical World (Los Angeles: Getty Publications, 2004), p. 329, fig. 508.

The J. Paul Getty Museum Handbook of the Collections. 7th ed. (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2007), p. 3, ill.

The J. Paul Getty Museum Handbook of the Antiquities Collection. Rev. ed. (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2010), p. 7.

Green, Christopher, and Jens M. Daehner. Modern Antiquity: Picasso, de Chirico, Leger, and Picabia (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2011), 44, fig. 29.