BMCR 2014.07.12

Personal Styles in Early Cycladic Sculpture. Wisconsin Studies in Classics

, Personal Styles in Early Cycladic Sculpture. Wisconsin Studies in Classics. Madison: The University of Wisconsin Press, 2013. xxiii, 196; 98 p. of plates. ISBN 9780299172046. $34.95.


Thirteen years have passed since the publication of the hardback edition of Personal Styles in Early Cycladic Sculpture. Since that time there has been the publication of the so-called Keros Hoard by Peggy Sotirakopoulou (2005), new guides for the Museum of Cycladic Art in Athens and the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford,1 and exhibitions such as Silent Witnesses: Early Cycladic Art of the Third Millennium BC (2002; Alexander S. Onassis Public Benefit Foundation), Ancient Art of the Cyclades (2006; Katonah Museum of Art)2 and Kykladen: Lebenswelten einer frühgriechischen Kultur (2011; Karlsruhe, Badisches Landesmuseum; BMCR 2012.09.27). This lightly revised paperback edition of Personal Styles (and there is also an e-book edition) does not take proper account of the missing catalogues (both published in 2000) for the Ashmolean Museum and the Goulandris Collection that were noted in my 2002 review for BMCR 2002.09.24.3 This was a lost opportunity to revise the lists of sculptors and provide fuller bibliographical entries.

It is unnecessary to revisit some of the concerns about reconstructing artistic personalities in the third millennium BC. The progression of style is unsupported by any evidence, and relies more on the art historian’s perception of how the corpus should be ordered. It would be appropriate to observe that not all museum curators and dealers have engaged with the shift from “Masters” (in Sculptors of the Cyclades [1987]) to “Sculptors” in Getz-Gentle’s work.4 Getz-Gentle’s revised checklists (pp. 184-87) remind us of the fluidity of her attributions. The Heidelberg figure, which once was attributed to the Kontoleon Sculpture (Checklist, no. 8), is added to the expanded list (four new pieces including Heidelberg) for the Israel Museum Sculptor. There are ten additions to the list for the Goulandris Sculptor of which seven are linked to Keros. There are four additions to the Schuster Sculptor, all linked to Keros, and two to the Dresden Sculptor. Other single additions are made to the lists for the Doumas, Bent, Steiner, Ashmolean, Berlin, and Louvre Sculptors.

Documented collecting histories are vital for understanding the market and the authenticity of information about reported find-spots.5 The New York “namepiece of the Bastis Sculptor” (Checklist no. 4) appears in Getz-Gentle’s list as coming from “Naxos”. In the Addendum she now writes (p. 184):

“Just a few weeks before writing these words, I learned that the masterwork that is the name-piece of the Bastis Sculptor [4] was first acquired by the late Christos Bastis from the Galerie Segredakis in 1947. According to the information given to Bastis, the piece was found on Naxos. Although I was taught early on to distrust dealers’ provenances, in this case the support for the correctness of Naxos as the source comes from the fact that only one year later looters were caught digging in the cemetery of Phiontas in southern Naxos”.

The difficulty of using reported find-spots is highlighted by Getz-Gentle’s entry in the catalogue for the Bastis Collection, where she noted that the sculpture was “Said to be from Paros, but more likely from Naxos”.6 On whose authority was the Paros location recorded? Getz-Gentle notes that the pair of statues confiscated from looters in 1948 from Phiontas were also attributed to the Bastis Sculptor (Checklist, nos. 1-2).7 Incidentally, the namepiece of the Israel Museum Sculptor also surfaced through the Galerie Segredakis.8

One of things that Getz-Gentle appears to be saying in the Addendum is that the establishment of the network of dealers can be used to identify material derived from looted sites. This observation in itself is significant given the impact of the raid in the Geneva Freeport that provided access to photographic material and subsequently allowed archaeological material to be returned to Italy.9 The closest layout to the Medici organisational chart is found in a table provided by Sotirakopoulou.10 Thus the discussion of the Cycladic figures owned by Dominique de Menil, her son François, and her sister Anne Gruner Schlumberger reveals that the items were derived from Nikolas Koutoulakis (p. 183). Dominique and François de Menil also appear in Sotirakopoulou’s lists.

The main section of the Addendum is entitled “A Note on Keros and the Keros Hoard” (pp. 183-84). In the summer of 1990 I was shown fragmentary Cycladic figures that were due to be auctioned in London. This was one of the factors that led to the 1993 study, with Christopher Chippindale of the material and intellectual consequences of esteem for Cycladic figures.11 I have argued elsewhere that it is inappropriate to call this collection of fragmentary marble figurines a “hoard” and I have suggested the alternative term of the “Keros Haul”.12 This prompted a Forum Article in the American Journal of Archaeology from Peggy Sotirakopoulou who persisted with the use of the term “Hoard”.13 The response from Getz-Gentle revealed the role of Koutoulakis in the dispersal of this group of fragmentary Cycladic figurines, a function that earlier led me to suggest his role as “the Haulier”.14

Fragments from the Keros Haul continue to surface on the market. Two pieces, a pair of legs (h. 16.5 cm) and a torso, were sold at Christie’s, London on October 6, 2011 (lot 55, £4000 [$6164]; lot 56, £8125 [$12,521]). Both are attributed to the Goulandris Sculptor (Additional Checklist, nos. 83 and 84). Getz-Gentle tells us that both were handled by Koutoulakis, whereas the Christie’s catalogue indicated that Gabrielle Keiller (1908-1995) had acquired them from B. C. Holland Inc., Chicago in 1981. A third head (h. 12 cm) was auctioned at Christie’s New York, Rockefeller Plaza on June 12, 2002 (lot 3, $26,290). The Christie’s catalogue does not mention the link with Keros, but Getz-Gentle does (Goulandris Sculptor, Additional Checklist no. 85).

It would have been helpful to note that the head from the Kurt Flimm collection (Goulandris Sculptor, Checklist no. 34), was sold at Christie’s New York, Rockefeller Plaza on December 11, 2009, lot 78 for $60,000. The Christie’s entry provides additional information that it was acquired in Paris in 1976, passed through the collection of Flimm, sold by Charles Ede, London in 2005, and then acquired by Mr and Mrs Charles W. Newhall, III. Getz-Gentle adds the information that the head was bought from Koutoulakis via Jürgen Thimme, no doubt for its appearance in the Karlsruhe exhibition.15

An addition to the corpus of the Goulandris Sculptor (unless it is already there lurking under one of the anonymous private collections) is the head and neck of a figure (h. 15 cm) that was auctioned at Christie’s New York, Rockefeller Plaza on June 5, 2014 (lot 62, $197,000). This was from the collection of Rudolf and Lenore Blum, and had previously been owned by Simone de Monbrison, Paris, 1970s, and Elsa Bloch-Diener, Bern, 1977. As I was writing the review it was announced that the Badisches Landesmuseum in Karlsruhe had returned a marble figure (and a Cycladic “frying-pan”) to Greece.16 The figure had been acquired in the 1970s and its full collecting history has not been released. This sculpture was one of three attributed to the Karlsruhe/Woodner Sculptor, and not one of the three comes from a secure archaeological context (although two had reported associations with Keros).

One of the issues explored in my earlier review was that of forgeries or modern creations. This is a topic that deserves to be addressed in more detail not least because so few of the figures in the corpus come from excavated contexts. Evidence is now emerging of an individual (“the Forger”) operating in Greece during the 1980s and 1990s who has identified a number of key pieces that were his creation.17 He has indicated that his work was handled by major dealers. There continue to be major intellectual consequences of esteem for the study of these stunning marble figures. Sadly, this revised edition has not taken the opportunity to re-engage with the on-going debate.


1. Nicholas Chr. Stampolidis and Peggy Sotirakopoulou, Aegean Waves: Artworks of the Early Cycladic Culture in the Museum of Cycladic Art at Athens (Athens: Skira, 2007); Yannis Galanakis (ed.), The Aegean World: A Guide to the Cycladic, Minoan and Mycenaean Antiquities in the Ashmolean Museum (Athens: Kapon Editions, 2013).

2. The Katonah exhibition included several attributed figures: no. 5: Private collection, Athens Museum Sculptor (Checklist no. 1); no. 16: Private collection, Kontoleon Sculptor (Checklist no. 6); no. 17: Collection of David T. Owsley, Kontoleon Sculptor (Checklist no. 9); no. 26: North Carolina Museum of Art inv. 86.5, Steiner Sculptor (Checklist no. 5); no. 27: Private collection, Goulandris Sculptor (Additional Checklist no. 77); no. 35: Private collection, Ashmolean Sculptor (Additional Checklist no. 8); no. 36: Collection of Lewis Dubroff, tentatively attributed to the Schuster Sculptor; no. 38: Tampa Museum of Art inv. 2005.010, Louvre Sculptor (Checklist no. 5); no. 43: Private collection, New York, the Goulandris Hunter / Warrior Sculptor.

3. Tables listed in the earlier review now can now be found here.

4. Details can be found on Looting Matters.

5. David W. J. Gill, “Collecting Histories and the Market for Classical Antiquities”, Journal of Art Crime 3 (2010), 3-10.

6. Christos G. Bastis, B. V. Bothmer, and E. S. Hall, Antiquities from the Collection of Christos G. Bastis (Mainz on Rhine: Verlag P. von Zabern, 1987), 119-21, no. 50. In Pat Getz-Preziosi, Sculptors of the Cyclades: Individual and Tradition in the Third Millennium BC (Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 1987), 160, no. 26, the figure is attributed to the “Goulandris Master” and given the reported find-spot of “Paros”.

7. Naxos Archaeological Museum inv. 166 and 168. Two other figures were seized from the looters, one attributed to the Naxos Museum Sculptor (inv. 169; Checklist, no. 1) and the other to the Berlin Sculptor (inv. 167; Checklist, no. 6). For Naxos: Lila Marangou (ed.), Cycladic Culture: Naxos in the 3rd Millennium BC (Athens: Nicholas P. Goulandris Foundation / Museum of Cycladic Art, 1990).

8. Pat Getz-Gentle, “A Cycladic Figure Attributed to the Israel Museum Sculptor”, Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin (2011), 85, n. 5.

9. David W. J. Gill and Christos Tsirogiannis, “Polaroids from the Medici Dossier: continued sightings on the market”, Journal of Art Crime 5 (2011), 27-33.

1.10] Sotirakopoulou, Keros Hoard, 263, Table 3.

11. David W. J. Gill and Christopher Chippindale, “Material and intellectual consequences of esteem for Cycladic figures”, American Journal of Archaeology 97 (1993), 601-59.

12. David W. J. Gill, Review of Peggy Sotirakopoulou, The “Keros Hoard”: Myth or Reality? Searching for the Lost Pieces of a Puzzle (Athens: N.P. Goulandris Foundation / Museum of Cycladic Art, 2005), in American Journal of Archaeology 111 (2007), 163-65. [ JSTOR ]

13. Peggy Sotirakopoulou, “The Keros Hoard: Some Further Discussion”, American Journal of Archaeology 112 (2008), 279-94. There were two responses to this forum piece: Colin Renfrew, “The Keros Hoard: Remaining Questions”, American Journal of Archaeology 112 (2008), 295-98; Pat Getz-Gentle, “The Keros Hoard Revisited”, American Journal of Archaeology 112 (2008), 299-305. Additional information can be found in: Pat Getz-Gentle, “Keros Hoard Objects in Detail”, American Journal of Archaeology 112 (2008), 1-7 [ AJA Online ].

14. Pat Getz-Gentle, “The Keros Hoard Revisited”, American Journal of Archaeology 112 (2008), 299-305. For the links between Koutoulakis and two Cycladic figures, one in the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the other owned by Sheby White and Leon Levy, see Peter Watson and Cecilia Todeschini, The Medici Conspiracy: the Illicit Journey of Looted Antiquities from Italy’s Tomb Raiders to the World’s Great Museums (New York: Public Affairs, 2006), 246.

15. Sotirakopoulou, Keros Hoard, no. 210; Jürgen Thimme (ed.), Art and Culture of the Cyclades: Handbook of an Ancient Civilisation (Karlsruhe: C.F. Müller, 1977), no. 172.

16. The press release from the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports can be found here. The figure had the inv. 75/49, and appeared in Thimme, Art and Culture of the Cyclades, no. 151. It was attributed by Getz-Gentle to the Karlsruhe/Woodner Sculptor (Checklist no. 2).

17. This will be the subject of a study with Christos Tsirogiannis and Christopher Chippindale. ([Now published at
Tsirogiannis, C., D. W. J. Gill, and C. Chippindale. 2022. “The Forger’s Tale: An insider’s account of corrupting the corpus of Cycladic figures.” International Journal of Cultural Property: 1-17. [DOI 10.1017/S0940739122000352])