7000 BP: The Thinker and the Sitting Woman

The Thinker and the Sitting Woman. Hamangia culture, Romania, 7000 - 6600 years ago.

The Thinker and the Sitting Woman. Hamangia culture, Romania, 7000 – 6600 years ago.

In history, there are works of art that have a special place and that almost everyone knows: the golden mask of Tuthankhamun, the Pantheon in Rome, the Mona Lisa in the Louvre, the sunflowers of Van Gogh, … an endless list. Art works from a much older past are barely known to the general public but often they earn to be known. Some have of an extraordinary quality. One of my favourite works in this regard is “The Thinker and the Sitting Woman” thatwere found in Romania and are between 6,600 and 7,000 years old.

We know that these people were farmers. Chances are that they were resting after a day of working. The woman sits relaxed just like the man. He is thinking. About what is open for speculation.

A paradox

Both statuettes have a modern look. If we would see them for the first time, without prior knowledge, then we might think that these are very recent works of art, that is not more than 100 years old. Compare The Thinker with the bronze statue of Rodin[1], ‘Le penseur’, from 1902. We may spontaneously think that this is older than ‘The Thinker and the Sitting Woman ‘.

Rodin, statue known as 'Le penseur' (The thinker). Rodin created it as an image of Dante Aleghieri, the Italian writer. Its was 'The Poet'

Rodin, statue known as ‘Le penseur’ (The thinker). Rodin created it as an image of Dante Aleghieri, the Italian writer. Its was ‘The Poet’

Surprisingly, it is also true that some very old works of art sometimes show style characteristics that were reinvented in the 20th century. Paul Levy wrote about ‘The Thinker and the Sitting Woman’: “Their elongated necks and small heads are compellingly reminiscent of Matisse and the Cubist painters and sculptors, and a curator told me that it is just possible that Brancusi saw them.”[2]

Egyptian royal couple.  27th century BCE. Very static in comparison with 'The Thinker and the Sitting Woman'

Egyptian royal couple. 27th century BCE. Very static in comparison with ‘The Thinker and the Sitting Woman’

Hamangia culture. Headless stauette. Very stylised. It was probably worn as part of a necklace.

Hamangia culture. Headless stauette. Very stylised. It was probably worn as part of a necklace.

The Hamangia culture and woodworking

The Hamangia culture in Romania began around 5250/5200 BCE and lasted until around 4550/4500 BCE. It was a culture of farmers who lived in small communities, without a state. Technically, they were at the same level as the first European farmers that came from Anatolia had moved to Europe more than 1000 years before. The statuettes were found in 1956. They were made of clay and baked in an oven. Remarkable is that the man sits on a small stool. It is one of the oldest depictions of furniture in history. Such a seat is not difficult to make but like so many things it is very difficult inventing it, starting from zero. The stool indicates that almost 7,000 years ago farmers in South-East Europe had developed woodworking and the necessary stone tools.

The figurines ‘ the thinker and the seated woman’ undoubtedly belong in the gallery of the greatest works of art created by man. Today they look as fresh and intriguing as almost 7000 years ago.

Marc.Vermeersch@gmail.com


[1] The statue of Rodin was originally called the poet and represented Alegieri Dante
[2] Paul Levy, Beautiful Ashmolean Exhibition Offers Glimpse of ‘Old Europe’, May 21, 2010. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB127438940492094541.html

If you are interested in art you might like these blogs:
Art in Olduvai 1,74 Million Years BP, Baboonhead Rather unknown, undeserved, the oldest known art in the world
The Origin of Aesthetic Feeling and Art Fundamental: How our aesthetic feeling originated in reproduction of man, a darwinian explanation.
The oldest statuettes adapted by man are between 233,000 and 800,000 years old
“Lion Man”, the oldest statuette with a combination man-animal ‘Der Löwenmensch” was found in Germany.
The oldest Love Statuette in the World They keep on loving for ever in the British Luseeum.
A virtual visit to the Lascaux Cave is mind blowing!
Nerja Caves: the oldest Cave Art in Europe, 42,000 years old Rock paintings , probably made by neanderthals

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