Art of the Ancient World, C. 5000 B.c.e.–400 C.E.

Aegean Art

What is Cycladic sculpture?

The Cycladic culture (c. 3000–1200 B.C.E.) is known for its ceramic figurines. Cycladic artisans made their pieces out of various materials, from poor quality clay to marble, and represented humans, animals, and other forms. Some of the most well-known Cycladic sculptures are of women. These pieces can range in size and are highly abstract and stylized. The surfaces are smooth with little carved detail—facial features and other details would have been painted. In many examples, a figurine’s only facial feature is a nose, while arms are crossed over the chest, as if the figure is either asleep or dead. One side of the figure is flat and the toes are pointed, an indication that the piece was meant to lie on its back. In fact, many of these sculptures have been found near graves, raising the possibility that they served a funerary purpose, though their exact function is unknown.


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