Cycladic Bust Man
A "folded-arm type" bust of the Early Cycladic II period, depicting a man with his arms folded across her stomach.
Hand-Made Bronze Sculpture with Quality Guarantee. Traditionally made with the method of casting bronze and with a museum-like oxidization.
The meaning and function of Cycladic figurines is kind of an enigma. In the absence of written records, any interpretation has to be based exclusively upon archaeological finds and reasonable assumptions. Unfortunately, archaeological data is also insufficient due to the extensive looting of the Cycladic islands in the 1950s and 1960s, itself the result of the excessive value marble figurines acquired in the international art markets in that period. It has been estimated that out of approximately 1400 known figurines, only 40% has been recovered through systematic excavation.
Even with such fragmentary data, however, it is clear that – leaving aside the unique case of Keros – the majority of Cycladic figurines come from graves. This has led many scholars to associate them with funerary rituals, although the theories proposed vary considerably.
The numerous standing female figurines have been variously interpreted as representations of the deceased, substitute concubines, servants, ancestors or even substitutes for human sacrifices. Other scholars focus on the transcendental character of the statuettes and the overwhelming bias of Cycladic art towards female representations and attempt to explain them as symbols of a mother-goddess, associated with fertility and rebirth, conductors of souls, apotropaic images, divine nurses or even worshipers; some of those sharing this view suggest that the primary use of the figurines may have been in shrines rather than graves (although evidence for specialized cult areas in the Early Bronze Age Cyclades is extremely limited). Approaches that negate the religious character of the figurines are also available, focusing on social dimensions (e.g. representations of females in the age of marriage) or trying to offer practical, though rather unlikely, explanations (figurines as toys).
Although each of those interpretations has been based on serious argumentation and may carry seeds of truth, there is a general consensus that that the nudity of the figurines and the emphatic rendering of the breast and the pubic triangle refer directly to the idea of fertility. This impression is reinforced by some examples with swollen abdomen, apparently indicating pregnancy, as well as figurines with creases on the belly, believed to symbolize post-partum wrinkles.
Fertility was a central theme in the religions of ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern people, invariably associated with female divinities, and there is no reason to doubt that this would be the case for Cycladic islanders too. Whether Cycladic female figurines were meant as representations of such a divinity cannot be ascertained. However, the extreme conservatism observed in their typology (produced in the same standardized form for more than five centuries) supports the hypothesis of a ritual function. The characteristic posture with the folded arms recalls comparable groups of statuettes of religious nature from other eastern Mediterranean cultures (Syria, Palestine, Cyprus, etc.) and may have been a widely accepted symbolic type of divine representation. The idea of a worshipper in a gesture of veneration is a possible interpretative alternative but fails to account for the nearly total absence of male statuettes in this characteristic position. Therefore, the view of a female deity of fertility remains the most plausible explanation.
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