Centaur figurine

Unknown"early 7th c. BC" - ""

Museum of Cycladic Art

Museum of Cycladic Art

Figurine of a Centaur with raised hands and prominent genitalia. The nose and beard are rendered plastically while the eyes are denoted with painted circles. Other features, such as a latticed motif on the chest of the figure (a garment?) and various bands along the body are also painted red. The mythical Centaurs were daemonic hybrid creatures, with the upper body of a man and of the lower body of a horse. They dwelt in the woods, mainly of Pelion and Arcadia, were inordinately strong and usually very violent and aggressive. Their interpretation is difficult, because of their dual nature as well as of the fact that among them were two benevolent figures: Cheiron, who knew all the arts and was mentor of Achilles and other heroes, and Pholos, who helped Herakles in his battle against the other Centaurs. Such contradictions seem to have been intended to emphasize the opposition between the irrational and the rational, and to juxtapose man's primitive instincts and impulsive nature to the cultivation and nobility offered by culture and education. Thus, they functioned as a reminder that measure, moderation and social harmony should dominate primordial whims and individual arbitrariness. This very spirit is expressed by the Centauromachy (battle between men and Centaurs), which was one of the most popular decorative subjects in Classical Antiquity. The Archaic figurines may well have had an apotropaic function; that is, they were used to avert evil and misfortune.

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  • Title: Centaur figurine
  • Creator: Unknown
  • Date Created: "early 7th c. BC" - ""
  • Provenance: Unknown
  • Physical Dimensions: w120 x h123 mm
  • Period: Archaic period
  • Culture: Greek (Boeotian)
  • Type: figurine
  • Rights: N.P. Goulandris Foundation - Museum of Cycladic Art, C. Politis Collection, no. 34, http://www.cycladic.gr/frontoffice/portal.asp?cpage=NODE&cnode=25&clang=1
  • External Link: Museum of Cycladic Art, Athens, Greece
  • Medium: clay