Marble Marvels: Early Cycladic Figures

The sculptural white marble figures made in the Greek Cycladic islands during the Early Bronze Age (3200 BC – 2300 BC) are among the most instantly recognizable of archaeological objects. Some are less than 10 cm tall, while others almost life-sized. Nude females, especially those with arms folded across the belly, are most common, but there exist many other types, including male “hunter-warriors”, flute players, seated harpists and figures cojoined in a small group.

Almost every aspect of these figures remain enigmatic. We do not know what they were made for and for whom. Traces of painted decoration survive on a few examples, but it is their brilliant whiteness, simple elegance and severity of form that have made them so appealing to modern tastes.

Cycladic figure, British Museum
Cycladic figure, Virginia Museum of Fine Art

Cycladic figure, Indiana University Art Museum
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