This lyre-shaped head gives an explicit example of the design and style of the Bronze Age Greek sculpture. Sculpted almost as an abstract form, with features essentially omitted, the piece is fully recognizable as a human head by a slightly rounded chin and a prominent arching nose. The piece preserved the flaring neck and is a fragment of the entire figure whose composition is usually described as reclining.    Similar figures constitute the group of Cycladic “idols” which depict a nude female standing upright, with legs slightly bent, arms clasped on the belly, and the head tilted backwards. This piece belongs to the so-called Late “Spedos” variety, which represents the highest level of prehistoric Cycladic sculpture towards the middle of the 3rd millennium B.C..    Nowadays, prehistoric Cycladic art is famous mostly for these statuettes, whose design is both simple and attractive. Despite the strong beauty and seductive power they convey to the modern artistic taste, these figurines still keep many secrets, since their real purpose remains unknown. These “idols” (which come almost exclusively from necropolises, when the location of their discovery is known) have been successively seen as concubines for the deceased, mourners, substitutes for human sacrifices, nurses for the deceased, representations of revered ancestors, toys to be taken to the afterlife, or figures enabling or helping the transition to the afterlife, etc.; other scholars connect them with the Great Mother, a goddess of procreation and fertility, worshiped from the Neolithic in the Near East, in Anatolia and in Central Europe.    Behind their remarkable unity of style, these statuettes probably hide various purposes that cannot be clearly understood today. According to P. Getz-Gentle, recent studies on their polychrome decoration allow us to attribute to them a more active role than previously thought: these figures would probably have embodied a protective being, definitely feminine and maternal (related to a sort of a patron saint), who commanded natural phenomena and events that were most often inexplicable to the ancients: the cycle of life, the astronomical phenomena, the seasonal cycle and the fertility of the land, the sea, etc. Other scholars think, on comparing the role played by some divine representations in other civilizations that these Cycladic statuettes would have played an intermediary role between the believer/owner of the “idol” and the deity, like a kind of medium allowing, at certain stages of life, humans to enter into contact with a superior being.    PROVENANCE  C. Dikran Kelekian Ancient Arts, New York; G.L. collection, New York, October 22, 1965, with original invoice.    35362
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