Female Figure (work of art)
Key Ideas about this Work of Art
- This marble sculpture depicts a reclining female figure with her arms folded beneath her chest and her legs together, with her feet extended. Her nose is positioned near the top of her face, and the painted details of her eyes are only visible in certain types of light.
- The geometric, minimalist style of this sculpture is characteristic of Early Bronze Age art.
- According to archaeologists and historians, this sculpture was created by the Steiner Master, whose real name is unknown. He was active in the Cyclades during the Early Bronze Age (3200 to 2000 B.C.E.).
- Like many Cycladic figurines and other ancient objects in museum collections, this sculpture lacks documentation regarding where it was originally found.
Female Figure is a good example of the challenge museums face regarding many antiquities (relics or artifacts of ancient times): it has no provenience. This means the exact location where this object was found is a mystery. Its meaning and function are also uncertain because there is no written documentation from the prehistoric period in which it was created. The looting of Cycladic figurines in the 20th century made it difficult for archaeologists and historians to determine where many of these objects were originally used or found. To fill in the missing information, scholars have grouped figurines like this one according to elements of their style. Certain traits of Female Figure—a broad, U-shaped head and small, high-placed nose, and a thick torso and slender legs—link this work to a sculptor known as the Steiner Master. “Steiner” is the last name of the owners of the first figurine that was identified with this specific style. The artist’s real name is unknown. He is identified only by the style of his work.
The Steiner Master, if he truly existed, would have been active in the Cyclades (small islands in the Aegean Sea, between Greece and Turkey). From about 3200 to 2000 B.C.E., these islands were home to Early Bronze Age cultures with abundant mineral resources and expertise in metalworking. Many people from Cycladic cultures were also skilled sailors who traded with neighboring communities. The Cycladic cultures are best known for the creation of white marble sculptures, many of which are female figures like this one.
tags: women, Ancient Greece
Resources for Teachers:
- Explore a Cycladic Art exhibition in Athens, Greece.
- Discover more about Early Cycladic art, culture, and natural resources.
- Read an article about the market of looted antiquities, its intellectual and cultural consequences, and attempts of reparation in the present world.
Resources for Students:
- Read an article about Early Cycladic art and culture.
- Examine another female figurine that is attributed to the Steiner Master.
- Listen to a podcast about the looting of Cycladic figurines and their possible original meanings.