Sculpture: The Fundamental Venus

"Repulsively ugly" wrote a German archaeologist, Paul Wolters, of his finds on one of the Greek islands in 1891. By the artistic canons of his day, the classical Greek figure was the ideal of feminine form and the hourglass Gibson girl in her geegaws and gilded garters the height of fashion. To Wolters, the pinched sculpture found in the Cyclades, as the isles south of Troy and north of Crete are called, must have seemed pretty slim pickings. Yet these ostensibly crude figurines, despite their small scale, emerge as the first monumental sculpture in the Western world, and in...

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