Scholars have divided Early Cycladic sculpture into groups or types indicating stylistic and chronological developments. This stylized female figure is typical of the sculpture of the Cyclades in the mid-2000s B.C. known as the Spedos variety (named after an Early Cycladic cemetery on the island of Naxos). This group is one of the most common and longest-lived examples of the canonical female figure types, characterized by a slender elongated body with folded arms, a U-shaped head, and deeply incised (but not cut through) cleft between the legs. Details of the human form are reduced to a minimum, giving the figure a ﬂat, geometric quality. Incisions on the Getty’s broken figure are used to define the arms, the transition from the abdomen to the thighs, the pubic area, and the knee joints. The breasts are depicted as slight protuberances. The head, neck, and the feet are missing.
Sculptors living on different islands produced marble figurines in a similar style but with distinctive variations. The recognition of different artistic personalities in Cycladic sculpture is based upon recurring systems of proportion and details of execution. This figure is considered to be an early example of the Goulandris Master, who was active sometime in the period from 2500 to 2400 B.C. He is the most prolific Cycladic sculptor known to scholars, and over fifty surviving figures can be assigned to him. All of the figures display distinctive features of the artist's style: a rounded back; strongly sloping shoulders; small, widely spaced breasts; and a line running across the abdomen forming the top of the pubic triangle. Like all artists in this early period, the Goulandris Master's real name is unknown, and he is identified only by the style of his work. The sculptor takes his name from the Goulandris Museum of Cycladic Art in Athens, Greece, which contains several of his works.
Within Cycladic culture, the figures’ role and meaning remain elusive. Those with known archaeological contexts come mainly from graves. Most figures cannot stand, as their feet and toes point downward. They may therefore have been meant to lie on their backs, as their folded arms suggest repose. In ceremonial use however, the figures would have been held or carried upright in procession. Hundreds of fragments were found in a sanctuary on the island of Keros, deliberately shattered and ritually discarded. As the majority of Early Cycladic figures are female, and are represented nude, with breasts and incised public triangles to indicate their gender, they are probably linked with the idea of fertility and reproduction, which was often a focus of ancient Mediterranean religions.