Ancient Greece, Cyclades, ca. 2500 BCE. Finely carved from marble, a reclining female figure with her arms crossed, typical of the sculpture of the Cyclades in the mid-2000s BCE known as the Spedos variety, this name derived from an Early Cycladic cemetery on the island of Naxos. This canonical type is characterized by an elongated slender body with folded arms, a U-shaped head, and a sharply incised cleft between the legs. The anatomical details are characteristically minimized presenting an abstract, geometric quality. Incisions on the body delineate the arms crossed over the chest, and define the abdomen and pubic triangle. The breasts are gently rendered as well. On the face, the protruding nose is pronounced, and it is possible that other details originally may have been delineated with brightly colored pigments. When viewed from the side, the back is straight and continues the line of the neck, while the head is dramatically arched and the knees bent and flexed, another characteristic trait of the Spedos type. Size: 2.4" W x 9.75" H (6.1 cm x 24.8 cm); 10.35" H (26.3 cm) on included custom stand.
This piece has exceptional provenance. The earlier collector was Dr. Charles Alexander Best, a member of the Canadian Parliament and son of Dr. Charles Herbert Best - one of the co-discoverers of insulin. The younger Dr. Best, known as Sandy, grew up inspired by his parents, whose travels around the world enabled them to visit institutions and collections such as the British Museum and Bridgewater House in London, National Gallery in Washington, DC, and many others. Charles Herbert, Charley, and Margaret eventually developed their own collection consisting of "Canadian, American, and Australian works." An Egyptian Old Kingdom limestone relief from their collection passed through Bonhams London in 2014. A gifted painter in his own right, a pianist and violinist, Dr. C. A. Best followed in his parents' footsteps, perhaps on a broader scale - also collecting antiquities. An Egyptian bronze bull from the Dr. C. A. Best collection was auctioned off by Christie's New York, East in 1995.
Sandy's younger brother Dr. Henry Bruce Macleod Best (1934 – 2004) published an intimate account of his parents’ lives, including extensive information about his artistically gifted brother and his families. It tells the story of groundbreaking achievement and of a close-knit family. The father, Dr. C. H. Best, passed away one week after Sandy in 1978, and Henry followed in 2004 - one year after publishing the book: "Margaret and Charley: The Personal Story of Dr. Charles Best, the Co-Discoverer of Insulin" - June 1, 2003, Henry B.M. Best..
This piece is accompanied by a copy of the Art Loss Register Report (no. S00108630) as well as a CIRAM Scientific report (no. 0717-OA-52N-8) - analysis and report performed by Dr. Olivier Bobin, New York, September 25, 2017 - and the Sotheby's tag from Sotheby's London, "Egyptian, Western Asiatic, Greek, Etruscan and Roman Antiquities" 4 December 1972, lot 178.
See a stylistically similar female Late Spedos Type with folded arms in the Getty Museum - object number 88.AA.80
Provenance: ex-private collection of Dr. Best (Collector of Cycladic Art) and Dr. Banting, well-known physicians in Canada who discovered insulin in the 1920's, acquired in 1972 from Sotheby's London, "Egyptian, Western Asiatic, Greek, Etruscan and Roman Antiquities" 4 December 1972, lot 178; This auction featured property from the H.J.P. Bomford Collection including this piece (ex-H.J.P. Bomford, Esq.), and this piece is illustrated in catalogue.
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Areas of encrustation on head and body of figure. Missing lower legs. A wonderful warm surface patination. Head is not reattached and no restoration. The dolomitic marble presents expected aging and weathering from natural effects, and the CIRAM report concludes, "The results indicate that the weathering of the stone originates from natural and long-term processes, after the carving phase. These results are consistent with the presumed period of the object."