Small spouted Cycladic cup
Period: Cycladic (Early Cycladic II), middle of the 3rd millennium B.C.
Dimensions: Height: 6.5 cm, diameter: 13.5 cm
Formerly Waltz Collection, Germany, 1970s.
Complete and in excellent condition, aside from some chips on the rim and spout. Spout partially reglued. Surface covered with abrasions, especially the interior.
The pure, beautifully round shape and the wall thinness highlight the outstanding artistic quality of this Cycladic marble masterpiece. The very simple form is composed of three elements: a) a hemispheric body, with a barely flat bottom that does not provide stability; b) a projection with a flared profile, carved at rim level and modeled as a pouring spout; c) opposite the spout, a small, horizontal, cylindrical bulge, serving as a small handle for a better grip (between thumb and index finger).
During the middle centuries of the 3rd millennium B.C. (Early Cycladic II), the proliferation of this form perfectly reflects the development of Cycladic marble crafts, along with the production and large variety of statuettes with crossed arms. Produced in different sizes (our example is medium-sized) and shapes (triangular body, more or less shallow body, with or without handles, etc.), these spouted cups had various uses, both in a domestic context and in the religious sphere. Some rare examples that still retain traces of pigments may have been used to grind and mix powders, but the presence of the spout and the deep body would suggest that they rather served as containers for liquids (oil, wine?). Some scholars believe that these cups were oil lamps, whose wick was placed in the spout.
Along with the famous statuettes of idols, stone vases are very characteristic of Cycladic sculpture. Contrary to what is generally thought, the Cycladic lithic industry did not use white marble exclusively, even for the making of vessels. Objects made of other types of stone, such as steatite, gray marble and schist, are also well attested.
In the 3rd millennium B.C., metal tools were quite rare on the islands of the Cyclades; these finely carved objects would therefore have been manufactured using another stone. Taking into account the traces that are visible on the surface of these vessels, one can assume that emery from Naxos was used as an abrasive, that obsidian from Milos served for the incisions and that island pumice stone or beach sand was utilized for the polishing process. Such finely rounded, symmetrical vessels would have also resulted from the use of a potter’s wheel (to hollow out the vessels especially) and/or of a very simple compass.