Ancient Greece, Cycladic, ca. 2600 to 2100 BCE, Syros Group. A skillfully carved marble palette / dish of a rectangular shape with a shallow depression framed by a slightly raised border, perforations at the corners, and a gently curved underside, though the piece sits stably if desired. Cycladic marble workers are known for their remarkable artistry - displayed in their figural sculpture as well as their vessels. Size: 2.375" L x 4.375" W (6 cm x 11.1 cm)
The Cycladic Islands, a group of approximately thirty small islands and numerous islets in the southwestern Aegean, were called kyklades by the ancients who imagined them in the formation of a circle (kyklos) around the island of Delos, where the holiest sanctuary was dedicated to Apollo. The Cyclades were rich in various resources including copper, gold, silver, obsidian, and marble, the marble of Paros and Naxos regarded as among the finest in the world. Best known are the abstract female figurines that display remarkably consistent forms and proportions and some scholars argue that they were actually planned with a compass, as well as the sensitively modeled seated harp players. Interestingly, scientific analyses have demonstrated that the marble surfaces of those figures were actually painted with mineral-based pigments such as azurite for blue and cinnabar or iron for red.
For a similar example see: The N.P. Goulandris Collection of Cycladic Art by Christos Doumas, British Museum, 1986, plate 55.
Provenance: ex-private Manhattan, New York, USA collection; Antiquities, Sotheby's, New York, 8 December 1995, lot 46
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