Last weekend, while reading an art history book, I came across a familiar face, that of “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 companion piece, “Seated Woman”. I was impressed.
The two clay statuettes were found in 1956 in Cernavoda, Romania, in a tomb near the Danube. They originate 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 unanimous agreement on the age of the artifacts, various sources dating them somewhere between 2500 B.C. and 6000 B.C.
There are plenty of other statuettes from the Neolithic, but none of what I’ve seen so far show the level and care for form, gesture and emotional involvement of these figurines, clearly the work of an artist.
The woman is seated very 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 indeed.
Can it get any better than this? Is sure can. The artist shows even more concern for the male figure. He is seated on a meticulously modelled, realistic stool. Lost in thought, his facial expression and suggestive gesture show anguish and worry. The artist made a conscious effort to articulate his subject’s state of mind. If the statuette were to be used for religious ritualistic purposes, he needn’t do that. I suspect he made the figures for his own pleasure, like all artists do. The heavily stylized anatomy and the facial expression look very contemporary to us. The Thinker’s arresting presence conveys a feeling that perhaps what we are witnessing is one of the beginning moments of art. After thousands of years of progress, a lengthy but steady evolution, art has come full circle. Brancusi himself could have carved these figures!
This novelty is a Romanian coin dedicated to The Thinker:
The picture below shows a modern day copy of The Thinker and Seated Woman.
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/