Female "Idol"



Female "Idol"




ca. 2500-2400 BC


Early Cycladic


Marble, pigment
8 11/16 x 3 7/16 x 1 3/16 in. (22.1 x 8.7 x 3 cm)

Object Number



For a period extending over one thousand years, from approximately 3200 until 2200 BC, the late Neolithic and bronze age inhabitants of the Cyclades worked local marble into vessels and sculpture in human form. Apart from a few representations of musicians and nude males, almost all Cycladic figural sculpture depicts women. This statuette gives a nude female figure, her arms folded across her chest, her right (as always) below her left. Her lower legs and feet are not preserved, but her feet would have been inclined downwards. From this we may infer either that the figure was intended to lie down, or was mounted for display, or perhaps was intended to be carried. The significance or functions of these sculptures, created in a preliterate society, is necessarily unknown beyond the fact that most have been recovered from graves, although some have also been found in settlements. Some female figures appear to be pregnant, prompting the suggestion that they may have been votive offerings to facilitate childbirth, or commemorative grave goods for women who lost their lives giving birth.

The rendering of the body is highly schematic: the face, for example, is articulated only by a prominent nose. The sculpture is enhanced with incision for the neck, spine and genitals; and with pigment-dots on the cheeks, and further traces in the incision. The red (cinnabar) has discolored over time to black. The differences in the colors of the marble between the body and the neck are the result either of somewhat different circumstances of burial (moisture, acidity) or of modern cleaning rather than because the two parts do not belong.

The sensuous refinement of these figures, particularly the elegant curvature of the heads, was much admired, even imitated, by modern artists, among them Pablo Picasso, Amadeo Modigliani, Henry Moore and Constantin Brancusi.

Credit Line

Carlos Collection of Ancient Art


MCCM Permanent Collection Reinstallation, September 2004 - September 2006|
Ancient Art of the Cyclades, Katonah Museum of Art, October 2006 - July 2007|
MCCM Permanent Collection Reinstallation, July 2007 - June 19, 2014|
MCCM Permanent Collection Reinstallation, July 2014 - Present
Brooks Barnes, "Art and Money: Old Money," The Wall Street Journal, January 10, 2003.
MCCM Newsletter, March - May 2003.|
Jasper Gaunt, "New Galleries of Greek & Roman Art at Emory University: The Michael C. Carlos Museum," Minerva 16 (January/February 2005): 13-17.|
Pat Getz-Gentle, Ancient Art of the Cyclades (Katonah, New York: Katonah Museum of Art, 2006), catalogue 29.


© Michael C. Carlos Museum, Emory University. Photo by Bruce M. White, 2006.
This image is provided by the Michael C. Carlos Museum of Emory University, who retains all rights in it. This image is made available for limited non-commercial, educational, and personal use only, or for fair use as defined by United States law. For all other uses, please contact the Michael C. Carlos Museum Office of Collections Services at +1(404) 727-4282 or mccm.collections.services@emory.edu. Users must cite the author and source of the image as they would material from any printed work, but not in any way that implies endorsement of the user or the user's use of the image. Users may not remove any copyright, trademark, or other proprietary notices, including without limitation attribution information, credits, and copyright notices that have been placed on or near the image by the Museum. The Museum assumes no responsibility for royalties or fees claimed by the artist or third parties. The User agrees to indemnify and hold harmless Emory University, its Michael C. Carlos Museum, its agents, employees, faculty members, students and trustees from and against any and all claims, losses, actions, damages, expenses, and all other liabilities, including but not limited to attorney’s fees, directly or indirectly arising out of or resulting from its use of photographic images for which permission is granted hereunder.

On View



“Female "Idol",” Michael C. Carlos Museum Collections Online, accessed December 16, 2018, http://carlos.digitalscholarship.emory.edu/items/show/7795.

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