Female Figure of the Late Spedos Type

Object Details

Title:

Female Figure of the Late Spedos Type

Artist/Maker:

Attributed to the Schuster Master (Cycladic, active about 2400 B.C.)

Culture:

Cycladic

Place:

Cyclades, Greece (Place created)

Date:

about 2400 B.C.

Medium:

Marble

Object Number:

90.AA.114

Dimensions:

40.6 × 13.2 × 5 cm (16 × 5 3/16 × 1 15/16 in.)

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Abstract in form, small breasts and an incised pubic triangle identify the vast majority of Cycladic figures as female. This figure with crossed arms is typical of the sculpture of the Cyclades in the mid-2000s B.C. Scholars have divided Early Cycladic sculpture into groups or types indicating stylistic and chronological developments. This nearly complete figure features stylistic traits of both the Spedos and Dokathismata types (see examples of the Spedos and Dokathismata varieties), such as the exaggerated curve of the top of the head, the deep groove between the legs, prominent nose, and wide shoulders. Cycladic figures often had facial features, hair, or jewelry added in paint. Red pigment on the forehead, however, is all that remains of this figure’s original surface decoration.

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 Schuster Master, who was active sometime in the period around 2400 B.C. Over a dozen figures have been assigned to him. All of the figures display a head with a broad curving top and a crescent-shaped ridge at the back, a long aquiline nose, and well-defined knees. The Schuster Master also preferred to show his figures with a slightly swelling belly, probably indicating pregnancy. Like all artists at this early period, the Schuster Master's real name is unknown, and he is identified only by the style of his work. The sculptor takes his name from a figure once in the Schuster collection, the only surviving unbroken figure by this artist.

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 1989 - 1990

Robin Symes, Limited (London, England), sold to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1990.

Exhibitions
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

"Acquisitions/1990." The J. Paul Getty Museum Journal 19 (1991), p. 138, no. 14.

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

Theodorou, J. "Cycladic Art at the Getty." The Greek American (July 25, 1992), ill. p. 8.

The J. Paul Getty Museum Calendar (Winter 1991/1992), under "Bronze Age Sculptiure" ill.

Getz-Gentle, Pat. Personal Styles in Early Cycladic Sculpture (Madison: 2001), pp. 98-99; p. 168, checklist #15; pls. 82c, 83c, 85c1.

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. 87, no. 33.