Statuette of a Woman: The Stargazer is a “must see” at the CMA

Cleveland Museum of Art
CMA Thinker
Published in
4 min readFeb 1, 2019


by Amanda Mikolic, Curatorial Assistant

Image courtesy Cleveland Museum of Art.

More than 5,000 years ago, in what is now modern Turkey, Stone Age sculptors were carving small, sleek, surprisingly modern-looking human figures. With their heads tilted back, eyes staring upward to the sky, these statues are known as “stargazers.” Only about 30 are known to exist, including Statuette of a Woman: “The Stargazer” at the Cleveland Museum of Art. One of the earliest sculptures of the human figure in the museum’s collection, this example is even rarer as it is one of the few that is whole and unbroken. It is a visitor favorite at the CMA and a highlight of the “must cma” campaign featuring some of the most beloved artworks in the museum’s world-renowned collection.

Video courtesy Cleveland Museum of Art.

Although diminutive in size, Stargazer has a monumentality that belies her 6 3/4-inch height. In form she is pure and simple and highly stylized. She is recognizably human but only in the barest sense. Her oversized and oval-shaped head is tilted dramatically backward and sits on a slender bird-like neck. Her nose is an elongated ridge, and small, circular eyes are done in the slightest of relief. She has no mouth. Her gender is made evident by the incised lines in the pelvic area. These same lines define her legs until you reach the feet, which are held tightly together at the figure’s narrowest point. She is carved out of translucent marble that emulates soft flesh when polished, adding to the mystical quality of the figure.

Statuette of a Woman: “The Stargazer”, c. 3000 BC. Early Bronze Age, Western Anatolia?, 3rd Millennium BC. Marble; overall: 17.2 x 6.5 x 6.3 cm (6 3/4 x 2 9/16 x 2 1/2 in.). The Cleveland Museum of Art, Leonard C. Hanna, Jr. Fund; John L. Severance Fund 1993.165

We can only conjecture the purpose or function of these ancient objects, created before written language. All of them were buried, and after thousands of years in the ground, remnants of dirt and minerals can still be seen. Most are broken at the neck. The deliberate removal of the head from the body most likely occurred before the figure was confined to the ground, indicating perhaps that the burial had ritual meaning and significance.

The CMA’s Stargazer cannot stand on her own, suggesting that she was meant to be held or lay recumbent. Deliberately rendered as female, she may be associated with fertility and abundance.

Images courtesy Cleveland Museum of art.

This remarkable statuette is from the Chalcolithic period, a name derived from the Greek word for copper and also known as the Copper Age. This is an archaeological period that falls at the end of the broader Neolithic period and before the Bronze Age. This type of statue has been called “Kilia” after a location in modern Turkey where the earliest published example was discovered in 1900. Similar figures have been found throughout Western Anatolia, which makes up the majority of modern-day Turkey and is the westernmost protrusion of Asia, as well as Thrace, which extends north of Turkey into modern-day Bulgaria and Greece.

“The modernist quality of Stargazer has influenced later twentieth-century masters and gives her a sense of timelessness.” — Amanda Mikolic, Curatorial Assistant

The modernist quality of Stargazer has influenced later twentieth-century masters and gives her a sense of timelessness. Although a masterpiece of form, she draws attention away from herself to what is above and outside, encouraging the viewer to think of humankind’s place and role in a larger cosmos.

Check out the must cma brochure here, learn more about the campaign #ontheblog here, and tell us what your #mustcma objects are when you visit the CMA on social media!