Early Bronze Age, about 2600-2400 BC
From the Cyclades, Aegean Sea
The Early Bronze Age inhabitants of the Cyclades made marble figurines of this type between about 2700 and 2400 BC. Though a few male figures are known, as well as rare musician figures, they are usually female and naked with folded arms. Their heads have no features apart from a sculpted nose, though facial features were often originally added in paint. The elongated crown of the head was also frequently painted, perhaps to indicate a hairstyle or headdress. The arms are folded, the right always underneath the left, and the feet point downwards, so that they are designed either to lie down, or to be propped up or perhaps carried.
The care and time taken to produce these figures, in marble rather than some softer material, and in a well-defined form that was maintained over centuries, suggests that they were important to the people who made and used them. They probably had religious significance and are unlikely to have been dolls or toys. Most come from graves, though they have also been found in settlements. They perhaps had some use in the rituals of the living before accompanying their owners to the grave.
J.L. Fitton, Cycladic art, 2nd ed. (London, The British Museum Press, 1999)
The marble figures of the Cyclades: 3000 BC
The most surprising early tradition in sculpture, coinciding with the beginnings of art in Egypt, is that of the Cyclades - a group of islands in the northern Mediterranean, scattered across the entrance to the Aegean sea.
Here, from about 3000 BC, large numbers of marble figures are carved. Most of them are of women, and they are designed to lie flat - perhaps suggesting death, for they have been found mainly in graves. In one sense they are in the primitive tradition which begins with the Venus of Willendorf. But they also develop an abstract quality which has seemed particularly attractive in our own time.
A Cycladic figure of about 2800 BC has the massive hips of a fertility goddess. Another, of some 300 years later, is visibly in the same tradition but the form has now evolved into something which seems (to our eyes) extraordinarily modern - even sharing Picasso's free-thinking approach to the human nose. Figures like this are made in large numbers in the Cyclades at this time. Most of them are small, about ten inches in length.
This distinctive style fades away after about 2000 BC, as the islands come under the influence of the stronger Minoan culture. But the Cyclades provide a fascinating glimpse of a primitive tradition developing into one of great sophistication - without losing its primitive conservatism.
from: History World
Cycladic art during the Greek Bronze Age is noted for its abstract, geometric designs of male and female figures. The Cyclades is a group of Greek islands in the Aegean Sea encircling the island of Delos . The islands were known for their white marble mined during the Greek Bronze Age and throughout Classical history. Their geographical location placed them, like the island of Crete, in the center of trade between Greece, Egypt, Asia Minor, and the Near East. Indigenous civilization on the Cyclades reached its high point during the Bronze Age. The islands were later occupied by the Minoans, Mycenaeans, and later the Greeks.
These figures are based in simple geometric shapes. Abstract female figures all follow the same mold. Each carved statuette is of a nude woman with her arms crossed over her abdomen . The bodies are roughly triangular and the feet are kept together. The head of the women is an inverted triangle with a rounded chin and the nose of the figurine protrudes from the center. Each figure has modeled breasts, and incised lines draw attention to the pubic region with a triangle. Incised lines also provide small details including toes on the feet and delineate the arms from each other and the stomach. Their flat back and inability to stand on their carved feet suggest that these figures were meant to lie down. While today they are featureless and remain the stark white of the marble, traces of paint allow us to know that they were once colored. Paint would have been applied on the face to demarcate the eyes and mouths, and dots were used to decorate the figures with bracelets and necklaces.
Cycladic Female Figure
A Cycladic female figure. Marble. Cyclades, Greece. Ca. 2500 BCE Male figures are also found in Cycladic grave sites. These figures differ from the females, as the male typically sits on a chair and plays a harp or a lyre . The figures, their chairs, and instruments are all carved into elegant, cylindrical shapes. Like the female figures, the shape of the male figure is reliant on geometric shapes and flat plans. Incised lines provide details (such as toes), and paint would have added distinctive features to the now blank faces.