Aegean Marble Idol of the Steatopygic Type
Culture: Greek, Greek-Cycladic
Period: Recent Neolithic Period, Circa 4500-3200 B.C.
Dimensions: Height: 11.3 cm
Ex-Swiss private collection, acquired in 1975
The statuette is whole and almost intact, in spite of some chips and the tip of the nose, which is broken. The incised or modeled details are perfectly visible.
This figurine represents a standing naked woman with her arms clasped on the belly: this type of sculptures enjoyed great success in the Anatolian, Greek and Balkan worlds during the Neolithic and the early Bronze Age. Its tripartite structure is composed of a cylinder formed by the head and the neck, by the longitudinal chest with thin waist and by the thick, round legs. The femininity of the figure is indicated by the finely incised pubic triangle, by the rounded belly, evoking childbirth, by the prominent buttocks and the full breasts. The feet are two barely indicated stumps, which do not guarantee the vertical equilibrium of the piece. The silhouette and the volumetric shapes of the body are reminiscent of steatopygic (literally, from Ancient Greek of large buttocks) Neolithic figures, with the rounded breasts, the belly with a large bulge, the prominent buttocks and the short, squat legs. Compared to the images of previous periods, the forms are less exaggerated and the general aspect is more “realistic”. In spite of this, this figurine still gives a strong impression of abundance, which contrasts with the flat and stylized shapes of later statuettes of the Bronze Age.
The anthropomorphic figurines are quite frequent during the Greek Neolithic Period, especially those in terracotta; the stone or shell examples are rarer and probably appear later. The most widespread figurines may adopt various postures, but mostly, two positions prevail: standing or seated with crossed legs. The very generous proportions of the body evoke the idea of fertility, but as for their Anatolian “counterparts”, we still do not know the purpose of these statuettes, and the Idol terminology is a modern convention. Nevertheless, it seems reasonable to think that they were intended for the religious and/or funerary sphere.
GENTLE-GETZ P. et al., Personal Styles in Early Cycladic Sculpture, Madison (Wisconsin), 2001, pp. 3-6, pl. 1-3.
PAPATHANASSOPOULOS G. et al., Neolithic Culture in Greece, Athens, 1996, p. 144ss; p. 311, n. 230, p. 318, n. 239.
THIEMME J. et al., Kunst der Kykladen, Karlsruhe, 1976, n. 7-10, pp. 420-421.
TREUIL R. et al., Les civilisations égéennes du Néolithique et de l’Age de Bronze, Paris, 1989, pp. 117-163.
On the Great Goddess:
M. GIMBUTAS, The Language of the Goddess, London, 1989.