08 August 2010
These wonderful images belong to pre-nuraghic Sardinia and are several thousand years old. They are described as the 'divine feminine', believed to be goddesses. Their importance is inferred from their positioning and the huge numbers and range of them in significant sites.
Of course there's lots of academic controversy about matriarchy and matrifocal societies, here as elsewhere. In particular, surely someone has written about the changing representations of women in this archaeological record. From these majestic, passive figures, there seems an abrupt transition to the energy of the bronze statuettes. But there's also a change from these powerful images to pictures of women that are either mundane (the breast displaying camp-follower) or passive in another way. One of the most famous statuettes is a beautiful tiny figure of a woman with her dead son across her knees, as if in a pieta brought about by war or vendetta. Despite their vigour and impact, these women do not have the sense of control offered by their predecessors. Later came the Carthaginians, and then the Romans; sculpture becomes more representational and women take their place amongst more familiar images of home, deity and imperial power.
We loved these ancient women, their stature and solidity. Some are big, maybe 60cm high, but others are tiny. The three dimensional Buddha-figures are detailed and charismatic. By contrast the angular, proto-cubist statues are like alien representations of power.