Cycladic Art: The Seated Cup Bearer

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“The Seated Cup Bearer”, a part of a series of sculptures, carved from marble during the Early Cycladic II period – Syros phase in 2800-2300 BC. The series includes male & female figures playing instruments, sitting in groups, and partaking in various other activities. Unfortunately, during the 1950’s-1960, there was a tremendous looting that took place on the Cycladic Islands – destroying many of the sacred burial sites and their documents –resulting in the introduction of many “undocumented” replicas of Cycladic sculptures. Of course, there is no signature or “date” inscribed on these sculptures, so it is up to the archaeologist to decipher its history. Having no frame of reference, makes it even more difficult to figure out what these figures meant to the society. Most of the documents that were destroyed, during the looting, can never be recovered – leaving scholars to their own hypotheses and speculations – adding on to an ever growing enigma.

The Seated Cup Bearer

The seated “Cup Bearer” is an elegant sculpture (15.2 cm) depicting a man seated on a chair, casually holding a cup. What caught my eye in this particular sculpture was the position of the man, holding his cup. He is sitting upright with this left hand propping his right as he holds up the cup – you can almost imagine a celebratory toast is about to take place (or he has been holding this drink up for quite some time).The surface of the marble is carved smooth, with delicate lines that separate each finger. It’s representation of the human figure is minimalist in style and shape. There is something so “modern” about this sculpture; it allows us to relate to an era so mysterious, so full of life and culture. Even though the figurine remains static, seated on his marble stool, you get a sense of moments the Cycladic civilization considered sacred enough to commemorate with such a sculpture. How is this “Cup Bearer” connected with a society, fuelled by wars and engorged with the wealth of precious stones and metals? One could simply assume that along with their struggle to maintain power of the Cycladic Islands, they also enjoyed themselves. I happen to think they did! They were a society blessed by their surroundings; with the Cyclades’ Islands being some of the most beautiful Islands in the World. A land rich with glorious white marble – marble that enabled their artwork to stand the test of time. We may never know what they looked like or what language they spoke, but looking at this marvellous artefact, we are given a glimpse into a world far more complex and beautiful than we could ever imagine.

Conclusion

What does “The Seated Cup Bearer” represent? Did they use it for rituals? Was it in fact a statue of a sacred God? Trying to understand the purpose and the meaning behind “The Seated Cup Bearer” remains a mystery. Over 5,000 years has passed since the figure first held up his cup – he is a wonderful ambassador of a society that has inspired many and is even relevant in today’s context.

Citations:

Gardner’s Art through the Ages: The Western Perspective, 14th Edition: Page 84 07 Feb. 2014.

“Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History.” Early Cycladic Art and Culture. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Feb. 2014.

Fant, Maureen B. “In Athens, A Trove of Antiquities.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 27 Sept. 1998. Web. 08 Feb. 2014.

Visit https://vimeo.com/30074235 to see the “Seated Cup Bearer” and other Cycladic Figure Scultpures.

“The Seated Cup Bearer”, a part of a series of sculptures, carved from marble during the Early Cycladic II period – Syros phase in 2800-2300 BC. The series includes male & female figures playing instruments, sitting in groups, and partaking in various other activities. Unfortunately, during the 1950’s-1960, there was a tremendous looting that took place on the Cycladic Islands – destroying many of the sacred burial sites and their documents –resulting in the introduction of many “undocumented” replicas of Cycladic sculptures. Of course, there is no signature or “date” inscribed on these sculptures, so it is up to the archaeologist to decipher its history. Having no frame of reference, makes it even more difficult to figure out what these figures meant to the society. Most of the documents that were destroyed, during the looting, can never be recovered – leaving scholars to their own hypotheses and speculations – adding on to an ever growing enigma.

The Seated Cup Bearer

The seated “Cup Bearer” is an elegant sculpture (15.2 cm) depicting a man seated on a chair, casually holding a cup. What caught my eye in this particular sculpture was the position of the man, holding his cup. He is sitting upright with this left hand propping his right as he holds up the cup – you can almost imagine a celebratory toast is about to take place (or he has been holding this drink up for quite some time).The surface of the marble is carved smooth, with delicate lines that separate each finger. It’s representation of the human figure is minimalist in style and shape. There is something so “modern” about this sculpture; it allows us to relate to an era so mysterious, so full of life and culture. Even though the figurine remains static, seated on his marble stool, you get a sense of moments the Cycladic civilization considered sacred enough to commemorate with such a sculpture. How is this “Cup Bearer” connected with a society, fuelled by wars and engorged with the wealth of precious stones and metals? One could simply assume that along with their struggle to maintain power of the Cycladic Islands, they also enjoyed themselves. I happen to think they did! They were a society blessed by their surroundings; with the Cyclades’ Islands being some of the most beautiful Islands in the World. A land rich with glorious white marble – marble that enabled their artwork to stand the test of time. We may never know what they looked like or what language they spoke, but looking at this marvellous artefact, we are given a glimpse into a world far more complex and beautiful than we could ever imagine.

Conclusion

What does “The Seated Cup Bearer” represent? Did they use it for rituals? Was it in fact a statue of a sacred God? Trying to understand the purpose and the meaning behind “The Seated Cup Bearer” remains a mystery. Over 5,000 years has passed since the figure first held up his cup – he is a wonderful ambassador of a society that has inspired many and is even relevant in today’s context.

Citations:

Gardner’s Art through the Ages: The Western Perspective, 14th Edition: Page 84 07 Feb. 2014.

“Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History.” Early Cycladic Art and Culture. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Feb. 2014.

Fant, Maureen B. “In Athens, A Trove of Antiquities.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 27 Sept. 1998. Web. 08 Feb. 2014.

Visit https://vimeo.com/30074235 to see the “Seated Cup Bearer” and other Cycladic Figure Scultpures.

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