• Christies auction house James Christie logo

    Sale 12239

    Antiquities

    6 July 2016, London, King Street

  • Lot 36

    A LARGE CYCLADIC MARBLE FEMALE FIGURE

    LATE SPEDOS VARIETY, CIRCA 2500-2400 B.C.

    Price Realised  

    Estimate

    A LARGE CYCLADIC MARBLE FEMALE FIGURE
    LATE SPEDOS VARIETY, CIRCA 2500-2400 B.C.
    The reclining figure with lyre-shaped head, with a slender triangular nose and rounded chin, on a slightly flaring neck, the body sculpted with gently sloping shoulders, arms folded right below left beneath the rounded breasts, her elegant fingers delineated, contoured grooves along the upper thighs leading into the deep cleft dividing the legs at the front, a shallow cleft at the rear at the base of the delineated spine, ghosts of pigment of the proper left eye preserved, red pigment on underside of head preserved
    15 7/8 in. (40.2 cm.) high


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    The Cycladic sculptors of the 3rd Millennium B.C. are recognised as masters of their craft. Their schematic approach to the human form resulted in an iconic style, in which the female body is represented by its barest essentials. These enigmatic figures undoubtedly held huge significance to their original owners, and were probably only commissioned by individuals of high status. Often discovered in graves, their original use remains speculative, though religious and fertility functions have been repeatedly suggested.

    As is characteristic of the Spedos type, the proportions of the present lot are harmonious, with each section of the figure perfectly balanced. It follows a quadripartite design, which demands that the head and neck account for a quarter of the size, the upper torso another quarter, the midsection to the knees a third quarter, and the lower legs the fourth. The preserved ghosts of pigment offer a tantalising view of the original aesthetic of the sculpture. According to P. Getz-Preziosi (Sculptors of the Cyclades, Individual and Tradition in the Third Millennium B.C., Ann Arbor, 1987, p. 53ff), it would have been common practice in this period for the sculptor to embellish figures with red and blue pigment, especially for the eyes, brows and hair, which would have imbued a 'powerful magical meaning'. The use of red was thought to 'symbolize blood and hence the restoration of life beyond the grave'. Lastly, the size of this sculpture is remarkable; when complete, it would have stood at around 52 cm. high.

    Provenance

    Private collection, Belgium, acquired 1970s.


    Saleroom Notice

    Please note, this figure was acquired prior to 1972 from Lucien Delplace (1897-1991), an antiques dealer in Brussels who specialised in objets d’art.


    Pre-Lot Text

    PROPERTY FROM A NOBLE EUROPEAN COLLECTION