Merely Women, Getty Villa VIII

DorothyOne more stop here on the second floor of The Getty Villa‘s public galleries and then we’ll break for olive loaf in The Cafe.

Tip-toe with me into a room in the southwest corner. This hushed, gray, dramatically lighted gallery is the current home of some very, very antique statuary that has been wandering around Western civilization for about five thousand years: Cycladic art.

If you, like me, are a victim of public education, you will pipe up, “Cycladic art? What is that?” The helpful informational signs on the museum wall and that all-seeing hive-mind, Wikipedia, supply the answer: “Cycladic art is the art of the Cycladic Civilization.”

If you, like me, are a victim of public education, you will nod and say, “Go on…” The wall cards and Wikipedia do go on, “Cycladic civilization existed in the Cyclades from about 3300 to 2000 B.C.”

We public education victims ask in level voices, “And the Cyclades would be…?”

Cards and Wiki drone on, “The Cyclades, as every well-informed person already knows, are an archipelago — oh, beg pardon, public education victims — are a string of islands in the Aegean sea. That’s the sea to the east of Greece. Greece sort of hangs down from Europe into the Mediterranean. Europe is where France and Germany and things like that are. Remember the movie The Great Escape with Steve McQueen? That’s Europe.”

Don’t let the cards or Wiki provoke you. Instead, simply gaze into the old, old marble statuette above right. Go ahead, look at it… Congratulations. You are now as much of an expert on Cycladic art as the dustiest scholar, because, as it turns out, nobody knows beans about Cycladic civilization, much less their art. All we know is they must have been a humane bunch to produce such deeply heartfelt tributes to their women.

All-knowing Wiki downgrades the tributes to “idols” as in (and I quote) “It is unknown whether these idols depict a goddess, or merely Cycladic women.”

Merely Cycladic women? Merely?

There is nothing “merely” about the women who inspired these exquisite carvings, nor anything “merely” about the artists who carved them. The museum card, in its lofty unknowingness, calls the bust above “Head of Female Figure with Dotted Cheeks.” Which is to say, the scholars have no idea what the artist called the “idol.”

I suspect the artist called it by a person’s name.

The harp player had a name, too.

The Getty Villa.
Pacific Palisades, Los Angeles
It’s on the PCH just north of Sunset Blvd.
You’ll need a ticket to get past the guards, but the entrance ticket is FREE. Obtain one via telephony or Web.
Parking is $10 and plenteous.


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