Material and intellectual consequences of esteem for Cycladic figures

D. W. J. Gill, C. Chippindale

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The purpose of this paper is to document the consequences, material and intellectual, of a recent rising regard for Cycladic figures as objects of the connoisseur's zeal. It explores the nature of the known corpus, which is composed of figures that have either come to light through archaeological excavation or by ''surfacing'' on the art market. The growing esteem for Cycladic figures has had certain material consequences for their study: archaeological contexts have been destroyed, the means of developing a reliable chronological sequence have been lost, regional variations in figure types have become blurred, and finally, the opportunity to understand the function of the figures has been missed. The intellectual consequences of the loss of archaeological information lead to a distortion in the perceptions of Cycladic prehistory and society. Attempts to identify the hands of ''masters'' of sculptures appear to be misplaced: the underlying ''canon'' of Cycladic sculpture can be shown to be little more than a creation of chance.

For the connoisseur, the value of a Cycladic figure largely resides in the object itself. For the archaeologist, the information immanent in the object provides elements of a larger story, the rest of which resides in a knowledge of context. The material consequences of the connoisseur's esteem, as we have been able to document them, are calamitous to the archaeological interest. The previously fruitful three-way marriage of connoisseur, market-maker, and scholar is now coming under strain as the interests and motives of the three partners have become distinct.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)601-659
Number of pages59
JournalAmerican Journal of Archaeology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Oct 1993


  • ART

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