Henry Moore, the great modern sculptor, once observed on his creations: “… my knife-edge sculpture may be unconsciously influenced by my liking of the sharp-edged Cycladic idols”. Besides the finding of rather obvious similarity in shapes of ancient and modern works, Henry Moore’s thoughts present a deeper understanding of making a sculpture: “I began to realize that there was no need for stone to restrict the expression of space as well as the form”. For this, both the concept and technique go together, and the ancient Cycladic sculptor, in Moore’s recognition, was able to arrive “at a result which was inevitable from the beginning”, which was done by the direct carving of marble, the process, that Moore so much appreciated in ancient sculpture and practiced himself.
The highly imposing qualities make this marble figure a remarkable work of the Cycladic sculpture. The study of it designates a specific type in the representation of a nude human figure (which appears standing in a contemporary display) and recognizes it as belonging to a variety of the Canonical type (a folded-arm figure): Early Spedos.
The sturdy, compact figure of average size is both well planned and well made. A classic example of its variety, the length was planned in four nearly equal parts—one for the head/neck, one for the upper torso to the waist, one for the thighs, and one for the calves and feet. The maximum width of the figure is somewhat greater than the usual one quarter of the length.
The outline contours of the figure's front and back consist almost entirely of pleasing convex curves. In profile, the figure describes a series of angles that are contained within narrow limits. When made to recline on a flat surface, the piece touches the surface with the back of the head and buttocks and the heels are only slightly elevated. Similarly, when placed in a prone position, the nose, chin, breasts, forearms, and knees will touch, while the ends of the feet will remain very slightly above the surface.
The internal incised detail is fully characteristic and well executed. On the front, this includes a fine incision that runs under the chin and up the sides and across the back of the head, defining the transition from head to neck; a shallow incision on the front marks the neckline that assumes a vague v-shape on the back. Deeper incisions boldly define the arms, which are shown in the canonical right-below-left position. Below the arms, very little of the mid-section is exposed, giving the impression that the arms are protecting the belly. A fine curving horizontal incision crossing the figure forms the top of the "pubic triangle", at the apex of which the deeply grooved leg-cleft begins. This ends near the top of the feet and is perforated for a short distance in the area of the knees.
On the sides and rear fine grooves mark the transition from the thighs to the calves, interrupted by the leg-cleft, and on the back a sharp groove marks the spine. From the shoulders in back the upper arms are obliquely slanted so that the elbows are brought forward to the front of the figure where they appear symmetrical.
It is possible that these types of figurines might have some religious/cultic function and could be considered as gods and goddesses. Other theories represent them as companions or servants of the dead, or even toys. None of the theories could be confirmed as documental, and the archaeological evidence does not present any clue of how such figures were employed in the domestic or cultic context.
Excellent condition, complete except for the left foot and a small part of the right foot, which were restored.
TEFAF NY SPRING, May 2017
Ex- French private collection, Cannes, acquired from Galerie Ramier, 1970's;
Ex- French private collection, acquired in Nice, 1996; Ex- Paris art market, 2014