Aegean: Cycladic Art (2,800-1,100 BCE)

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Spedos type figurines
Seated harpist figurine
Female figurine, Kapsala type

Female figurine, Dokathismata type
Female figurine, Chalandriani type
Akrotiri friezes

The Cyclades is an Aegean island group to the south-east of mainland Greece. Its name describes the islands as being around (cyclic) the sacred island of Delos. The largest island is Naxos, the most populated is Syros.

Cycladic art is is best known for its flat sculptures carved out of the islands’ pure white marble, from well before the Minoan civilization arose in Crete to the south. These appealing and portable figures were looted from burial sites to serve the antiquities market.


A display of Marble Cycladic figurines from the National Archaeological Museum of Athens. The most common is a full-length female figure with arms folded across the front, known to archaeologists as a FAF or folded-arm figureine. The faces are a smooth blank except for a nose, though it is clear some were originally painted. Large numbers of these are known, sadly most were removed from their context, though it was usually a burial. This display is also without context. Compare with the Venus of Willendorf.
Image source: Wikimedia commons

Image source: Wikimedia commons

Marble Cycladic statuette of a seated harp player (14 x 6 x 11 cm). It is classified as an early spedos, found at a 19th c BCE grave on Santorini.

It is on show at the Badisches Landesmuseum, Karlsruhe Germany.
This figurine dates to 2,700-2,600 BCE and is classified as Kapsala type and Cycladic II.
Kapsala figures differ from the Spedos type, the arms are much lower and in the right-below-left configuration. The faces also lack features, sometimes they do have a nose and perhaps ears; not this example.
It is on show at the British Museum, London UK.

Image source: Wikimedia commons

Image source: Wikimedia commons

This is a Dokathismata type female marble figurine from the end of the Early Cycladic II period. It is said to be from Amorgos, the easternmost of the Cyclades, and adjacent to the Dodecanese.
It is highly stylised, with broad, angular shoulders, a straight profile and a triangular-shaped head. An incised pubic triangle reappears in this style. The feet are connected and the leg cleft is shallow.

It is on show at the Ashmolean, Oxford UK and dated 2,800-2,300 BCE.
The pictured Chalandriani variety is from the end of the Early Cycladic II period. They are named for the cemetery on Syros where they were found. These figurines are similar in styleto the Dokathismata. They broke with the strictures of folded arms, shoulders are even broader. the head (where present) was triangular with few features and the legs and pubic triangle are lightly inscribed.
Image source: Wikimedia commons

Image source: Wikimedia commons
At Akrotiri, Thera (today’s Santorini) are some of the most famous Ancient ‘Greek’ frescoes.

These images show a pair of boxers, a fisherman and a Minoan lady.

The boxers are boys and wear a belt and loincloth, they have a glove only on their right hand. The boy on the left wears a great deal of jewellery, the one on the right none.

The fisherman is naked and his hairstyle suggests he is a youth. It is suggested that the fish are an offering.

The lady is wearing coloured Minoan robes with kilts and jackets which leaves the breasts exposed in Minoan fashion. She wears earrings and a necklace, wears her hair long and uses make-up. This suggests a woman of high status.

Rather like Pompeii, Akrotiri was buried in volcanic ash and pumice at some time between 1,650-1,550 BCE and this preserved the frescoes.

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