Cycladic Marble Kandila

Greek · Cycladic, 3rd millennium B.C.




H: 14.2 cm





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The collared and pedestaled jars, called kandiles, along with shallow bowls, are the two best-known forms of the Cycladic marble vessel repertory. The form of the kandila is composed of three very clearly defined geometric shapes: the ample bulbous body with a narrow and flat shoulder is supported by a small trunconical pedestal, which is typically entirely hollowed and surmounted by the wide trunconical neck fitted with a narrow rounded lip. Four compact vertical handles are placed at intervals around the body; a perforation can be seen in the middle of each. It served to suspend and/or transport the container with a cord; the largest examples, mostly when they were filled up, would hang from a stick placed on the shoulders of two carriers. Although simple, the tripartite design of the vessel is based on a balanced correspondence of proportions (the height of the body and the width of the mouth; the heights of the pedestal and collar).

The jar manufactured from a single block of marble is truly a piece of sculpture in the round. While the structure of the kandiles is almost always the same, their dimensions differ significantly from one example to another. They vary between 5-7 cm for the smallest and 35-38 cm for the largest vessels. The production of the latter would require a considerable amount of time and effort. The different stages of carving were to be completed with smoothing and polishing the surface from the inside and outside. The interior of this vessel is smooth, showing some circular traces of workmanship at the bottom. As kandiles are not supplied with stone lids, they belong to the open type of vessels. Their purpose is unknown, but two important facts should be highlighted regarding these containers. First, kandiles, the provenance of which is guaranteed, are exclusively found at necropoleis. Still, visible traces of use and repairs (especially on the handles) on some of them indicate that they were not only made for the tombs. On the other hand, one should notice the unpractical quality of the shape: small pieces have a very limited capacity, while the larger ones are much too heavy (over 20 kg). Therefore, one can imagine that before the deposition in the tomb, they were used for rituals or cults, probably connected to the funeral sphere, the details of which are unknown today.

They come from several Cycladic islands; the distinctive blue veins in the marble of this vessel indicate that it comes from Paros. Kandiles are generally dated to the first stage of Cycladic culture, known as Early Cycladic I and Early Cycladic I/II (approximately between 3200 and 2800/2700 B.C.). Nowadays, these vessels take their name from their fortuitous resemblance to the oil lamps placed in the Greek Orthodox churches (three examples of prehistoric kandiles were still in use in the Panagia Katapoliani Cathedral on the island of Paros in the late ’40s of the last century).


Complete; surface weathered and cleaned; inside traces of ancient tooling with some remaining encrustation; a few old scratches and a rusty stain in mid-section; a small chip on the rim, a fragment from the rim on the inner side was reglued; ancient chips on the lugs.


Art market, prior to the private collection;

Ex- Swiss private collection.


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GETZ-GENTLE P., Stone Vessels of the Cyclades in the Early Bronze Age, Madison, Wisconsin, 1996, pp. 5-39, 237-251, 300-301, 306-313, pls. 1-21.

GETZ-GENTLE P., Ancient Art of the Cyclades, Katonah Museum of Art, Katonah, New York, 2006, pp. 43-44, nos. 44-49.

GETZ-PREZIOSI P., Early Cycladic Art in North American Collections, Richmond, Virginia, 1987, pp. 270-279, nos. 93-104.

GETZ-PREZIOSI P., Early Cycladic Stone Vases, in THIMME J., ed., Art and Culture in the Cyclades in the Third Millennium B.C., Chicago, London, , pp. 95-107, pp. 308-312 501-503, nos. 263-275.

HEMINGWAY S., Art of the Aegean Bronze Age, in The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, vol. 69, no. 4 (Spring, 2012), pp. 20-21, fig. 29.

RENFREW C., The Cycladic Spirit: Masterpieces from Nicholas P. Goulandris Collection, New York, 1991, pp. 59, fig. 23.

VON BOTHMER D., BOTHMER B. V., GETZ-PREZIOSI P., BUITRON-OLIVER D., and OLIVER A. Jr., Antiquities from the Collection of Christos G. Bastis, Mainz on Rhine, 1987, pp. 114-115, no. 47.