Last weekend while reading an art history book, I came across a familiar face, “The Thinker”. No, I’m not talking about Michelangelo’s Lorenzo de Medici or Rodin’s famous sculpture. I’m talking about Neolithic man’s version of “The Thinker”. Last time I saw it was in elementary school history class. Never thought of it ever since. And now there he was, with his partner, “Woman Sitting”. I was impressed.
The two clay statuettes were found in 1956 in Cernavoda, Romania, in a tomb near the Danube. They come from the Hamangia culture, an early farming society emerging in the sixth millenium B.C. They were found among other similar, but headless figurines. There seems to be no agreement on the age of the artifacts, sources dating them anywhere from 2500 B.C. to 6000 B.C.
There are plenty of other statuettes from the Neolithic, but none of what I’ve seen show the level and care for form, gesture and emotional involvement of these figurines, clearly the work of a true artist.
The woman sits on the floor casually, with her arms resting on one knee. Her robust thighs and hips show the usual Neolithic approach to femininity (i.e.fertility), but look at the well defined hands gently positioned on the knee. A very sensual and subtle portrayal of the woman.
Can it get any better than this? Of course it can. The artist shows even more concern for the man. He is seatead on a meticulously modelled realistc stool. Lost in his thoughts, his facial expression and suggestive gesture show angst and worry. The artist obviously made a conscious effort to communicate his subject’s state of mind. If the statuette was to be used for religious rituals, he needn’t do that. I suspect he made the figures for his own pleasure, like all artists do. The stylized features and body look very contemporary to us. “The Thinker” is the beginning of the evolution of art. After almost 4000 years of evolution, art has come full circle. Brancusi himself could have carved these figures!
A Romanian coin dedicated to “The Thinker”:
The picture below shows a modern day copy of “The Thinker” and “Woman Sitting”.
And lastly, this is my sculpture inspired by these two figurines. For more pictures follow the link: http://erikatakacs.wordpress.com/2010/03/10/evolution-new-sculpture/