The Art Museum’s figure is a splendid example of a sculptural type that originated in the central Aegean in the third millennium B.C. Termed “Cycladic” after the island group from which they derived, sculptures in this early Bronze Age tradition are distinguished by their charm, technical virtuosity, and refined aesthetic, evident in the rhythmic pose of the body and understated rendering of the head with its stylized facial features. The repertoire of the Cycladic sculptors, who employed an indigenous, fine-grained white marble, was varied and included representations of both male and female subjects in a number of poses and activities. However, the most common subject was the nude female shown here in reclining position, legs held tightly together and slightly bent at the knees, her arms cradled or folded above the waist. In characteristic fashion the Cincinnati figure displays a slender, tapering torso, its length dramatically emphasized by a tall, handsome neck, a high, oval face, and a long, ridged nose.
We know little about the original function of such figures in Cycladic society. Some figures have been found in burials, which suggests that they may have served as guardian figures, placed in the grave to accompany or attend the deceased in the afterlife.