Cycladic Art: the Getty Harp Player

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Ancient civilizations in general have been provoking curiosity in the modern world for hundreds of years. In the 1890’s excavations were made on the islands of the Cyclades on which hundreds of tombs were recovered. From these tombs scholars were able to identify a new era called the “Cycladic” civilization which could be dated alongside the Egyptian chronology (Pedley 20). One ancient Cycladic piece I found to be quite interesting is a marble statue of a harp player that is located in the Getty Villa museum in Malibu, California. It was found during an excavation on the island of Keros in the 19th century. The purposes and domestic uses, if any, of the Harp player along with similar Cycladic figurines referred to as “idol dolls” remain a mystery. Many theories have been established since their discoveries, however, I believe that, like most Cycladic art and pottery, the Getty Harp Player had both practical and religious purposes during its owner’s life and death.
“Idol dolls” made during the Cyclades come from the Early Bronze age. It was not until after World War II that people discovered and became fascinated with them. An estimated twelve thousand graves have been opened in the Cycladic islands and a plethora of idols have been found. The Getty Harp Player is one of the most famous dolls because of the rarity of its unique style and theme. The Getty Harp Player’s fascinating detail and intriguing simplicity provokes curiosity as to what purpose the figure possessed. Licia Ragghianti, author of The Magnificent Heritage of Ancient Greece, excellantly describes the hypothetical thought process of the sculptor as he created this masterpiece. According to Ragghianti, “[He] proceeded by aligning, counterbalancing, paralleling, angling, interpenetrating, and inverting the triangular rhythms viewed both laterally and from above - with the head nose, arms and legs indicating direction - as well as from the horizontal plane of the base.” Because light filters through



Cited: Childs, Craig. Finders Keepers. New York: Hachette Book Group, 2010. Print. Hafner, German. Art of Crete, Mycenae, and Greece. New York: H. N. Abrams, 1969. Print. Lawergren, Bo. A "Cycladic" Harpist in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Diss. Hunter College, 2000. New York: City University of New York, 2000. Web. 5 Mar. 2012. . Pedley, John G. Greek Art and Archaeology. [S.l.]: Prentice Hall, 2003. Print. Ragghianti, Licia Collobi. The Magnificent Heritage of Ancient Greece: 3000 Years of Hellenic Art. New York: Newsweek, 1979. Print.

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