Kandilla

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This carved vessel of harmonious proportions was characteristic of the first phase of the Cycladic culture, called Grotta Pelos, during the Early Bronze Age (3200-2700 BC). It has a wide bulbous body with an ellipsoid profile, deep shoulders from which rises a long and wide tapering neck. The foot is a flared conical stem which seems to raise the piece giving it a solemn aspect. Four vertical protuberances or lugs in the form of the crescent moon are to be seen placed equidistant around the body. These are perforated in the middle, possibly so that cords can be placed to hold a lid to the vessel in place.

This prototype is popularly known as a kandilla, due to the similarity of its form to that of the hanging lamps used in Greek Orthodox Christian churches. While specialists have not reached a consensus as to their function, some authors have indicated a possible symbolic use due to the similarity with the form of a pomegranate. It is of interest to note that two of these vessels have been found full of seashells in funerary contexts, as offerings to the gods of the underworld. The fact that these pieces were made in marble points to the wish that they should be pieces which would last, and to their special place in Cycladic ritual. Similar examples are to be found in the Fitzwilliam Museum, in the National Museum of Archaeology in Athens and in the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts.

The Cyclades, an archipelago in the southeast of the Aegean, is made up of thirty or so small islands and islets. In antiquity, the Greeks created this name as they imagined these islands formed a circle (kyklos) around the sacred island of Delos, where the statuary of Apollo was to be found. At the end of the 3rd millennium BC, an agricultural culture developed in whose settlements strange vessels and statues worked from Paros and Antiparos marble have been recovered. Those of the “violin” type stand out, pieces whose form suggests the silhouette of this musical instrument. Both the kandillas and these figurines have been worked using stone tools. Although these tools used by the artisans have not been preserved, recent research and experimental archaeology have pointed to the possibility that they could have been made from emery, a heavy, dense material found in abundance on the island of Naxos. Thanks to the qualities of this material, it could be used to polish and give form to marble, a technique that soon was to be perfected by the sculptors of the Greek islands.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

- BENT, J. T. «Researches among the Cyclades», Journal of Hellenic Studies, 5, p. 42-59. 1884.
- BOTHMER, D. et al. Antiquities from the Collection of Christos G. Bastis. New York. 1987.
- FITTON, J. L. Cycladic Art. British Museum Press. 1989.
- HOOPER, S. Catalogue to the Robert and Lisa Sainsbury Collection. University of East Anglia. 1997.
- GETZ-PREZIOSI, P. Early Cycladic Art in North American Collections. Richmond. 1987.
- GETZ-GENTLE, P. Stone Vessels of the Cyclades in the Early Bronze Age. University Park, Pennsylvania. 1996.

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