Cycladic Figure Research – Ashmolean

“…an unbelievably pure sense of style, of unity of form” – Henry Moore (1981)

These figures date from around the 4th and 3rd millennium BC, making them one of the oldest artefacts in the Ashmolean museum. This particular aspect fascinated me, how they could have survived so long. They reminded me of the Easter Egg Island heads, and similar looking African fertility dolls. We can only make and educated guess at what their intended purpose was, however some things do remain clear when you see the figures.

The vast majority resemble the female nude, and some stand with their arms folded around their stomach as if indicating the promise of future fertility.

They also didn’t have flat feet, and would therefore have to be held up for show, or laid on their backs when displayed. I thought that this was an unusual feature, and perhaps maybe their designed purpose was to accompany your dead body in a tomb, much alike the Ancient Egyptians.

Despite these valid approximations, I still would not jump to conclusions. I find their ambiguity and simple beauty to be at the core of their intrigue. I therefore do not want to diminish that magic with attributing specific meaning to them, and to my own interpretations of them.


– Preliminary sketches


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