Monday, 31 January 2011

Bite 49: Unknown - Female Figure, Greece, c. 4250 B.C

Female Figure, Greece, c. 4250 B.C, marble, h: 21.5 cm
Having discovered farming and the domestication of livestock, human beings in the Neolithic period (c. 6000-3000 BC) were freed to take on more diverse roles in their new settlements. Thus the creation of finely crafted artifacts became possible. This female figure found in Greece is one such, surviving, early example. 

Being over 6000 years old the work is surrounded in an aura of mystery. Not only regarding the creator of the figure or its creation (it was carved from marble using obsidian and pumice, both volcanic substances) but little is known even about the people group or civilisation (or lack thereof) by which the work was formed. 

The role of such objects was likely linked to ritual and an early form of spirituality. Found in a domestic setting indicates that the figure may have functioned as a living talisman - an object loaded with supernatural or magical properties, probably representing a fertility goddess or to aid in pregnancy. 

Abstract in its rendering, symmetrical in composition, the figure is pleasingly tactile with groves and bumps indicating parts of the female human form. Elements have been exaggerated. The arms join across the chest. It may give some indication as to what Neolithic people saw as appealing in the female body.

Furthermore, this would have been one of the first forms of representation in the lives of human beings and can be seen as evidence of a base humanity present very early in our history. Namely the urge to create, to form images of the human body, and to interpret the world around us through 'art', whatever mysterious purpose it may have held.

In the collection (of over 2 million works) at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. This week will be focused on five works from this collection.

30,000 Years of Art, Phaidon, 2007.