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Museum purchase, William H. Noble Bequest Fund
Attributed to the Goulandris Master
Nearly five thousand years ago in the Cyclades—a cluster of islands dotting the center of the Aegean Sea—curiously modern and abstract marble figures were carved that were severely simple in form. These figures represent the human body in its most pure, pristine, compact, and essential shape, and bear a striking resemblance to modern works of art. The most impressive and memorable type is the canonical or folded-arm figure, carved according to strict conventions, which is nearly always a nude female with the left arm placed over the right. This figure, with its long, lyre-shaped head, a semi-conical nose, sloping shoulders, narrow arms, and rounded back without any indication of a spine that has been identified as the work of an artist known as the Goulandris Master. In the 20th century, artists such as Picasso, Matisse, Brancusi, Arp, and Moore respected and collected Cycladic art as models of how one can create emotionally stirring, yet highly abstracted, forms.