The J. Paul Getty Museum

Spool Pyxis with Lid

Object Details


Spool Pyxis with Lid






Cyclades, Greece (Place Created)


2700–2200 B.C.



Object Number:



4.9 × 8.6 cm (1 15/16 × 3 3/8 in.)

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Object Description

Cosmetics, jewelry, and pigments were held in a diminutive container known as a pyxis (box), which was produced in a variety of shapes. Like other Cycladic vessels, they were made in both terracotta and marble. This marble example is in the shape of a cylindrical spool with a broad projecting lid and base (see the body and lid). Incised lines decorate the walls. The base is pierced with four holes that may have been threaded with string to keep the container closed. Serving a variety of practical daily functions, many of these utilitarian vases also accompanied the deceased in graves.

The production of stone vases was an important and characteristic industry of the Cyclades, and it was only on those islands that white marble was used as a primary material for such vessels. Marble vases like this one were laboriously carved with blades of obsidian, a volcanic glass, and abrasives such as sand, emery, and pumice. The sculptors who carved the Cycladic marble figures—perhaps the most distinctive product of the Cycladic culture—probably also made the stone vases.


Private Collection, by exchange to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1991.

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

"Acquisitions/1991." The J. Paul Getty Museum Journal 20 (1992), p. 141, no. 2.

Getz-Gentle, Pat. Stone Vessels of the Cyclades in the Early Bronze Age (University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1996), p. 284, no. [J 4]; pl. 80a.

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. 61, no. 13.