Idol, folded-arm form

c. 2700–2100 BCE
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General Description

One of the more enigmatic artifacts of the ancient Mediterranean world is this type of marble figurine found mainly in the Aegean islands of the Cyclades. These starkly abstract human figures dating from the 3rd millennium B.C. display a remarkable purity of form, but their purpose is unknown. Originally, many of these objects were deposited lying on their backs in tombs or shrines.

This figurine is more angular than the other example of a Cycladic figurine in the Dallas Museum of Art's collection (1992.2) and perhaps slightly later in date. The pronounced flatness of the figure and its trapezoidal face, pointed shoulders, widely spaced breasts, and shallow leg-cleft all contribute to its classification to the Dokathismata variety, named after an Early Cycladic cemetery on the island of Amorgos. As with other examples of this type, the forearms of this figure are strictly horizontal, folded at the waist, and indicated by little more than incisions. The swollen abdomen is a feature found on other figurines in the Dokathismata variety and is perhaps meant to indicate pregnancy. The leg-cleft, which intersects the pubic triangle, deepens below the ankles to separate the feet. On the back of this figure the neck is articulated to the torso by an incised V line. The spine and leg-cleft are indicated by separate shallow incisions. The toes have been restored.

Adapted from

  • Anne R. Bromberg, and Karl Kilinski II, Gods, Men, and Heroes: Ancient Art at the Dallas Museum of Art. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1996. 44.

  • DMA unpublished material.

Web Resources

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Watch a short video about Cycladic figurines, forgery, and their relation to modern art.