The first monuments of sculpture in the Aegean basin are offered by schematic, rudimentary idols of various materials (stone, terracotta, bone, lead, etc.) which are found in very ancient pre-Hellenic Eneolithic layers. The series of these idols include those, mostly female and naked, of the Cycladic civilization, carved in marble. Some of them reach quite large proportions; so an example of Amorgos measures m. 1.45 in height. There is a difference of schematization in these idols, because, if some are shapeless, exhibiting the flat shape of a violin, others demonstrate the various parts of the body in their schematic structure quite distinct. Perhaps in the female figure it is the representation of a divinity, symbol of the eternal generative forces of nature.
In the Cretan-Mycenaean civilization, sculpture appears only in minute monuments (small bronzes, majolica, terracotta) or in decorative application (painted stucco reliefs). But perhaps the Cretans and Mycenaeans lacked the incentive that the Greeks of the classical age had to reproduce the human figure in stone and metal, an incentive given by religion and the exercise of the gymnasium.
In the Hellenic Middle Ages it is the exclusive triumph of small industrial art: therefore great sculpture is absent. However, we can, indeed we must admit, the existence of a wooden sculpture, the manifestations of which were the xóana, planed beams or trunks that had to roughly imitate the human figure with a covering of fabrics in function of clothes. Memories of this primitive wooden sculpture, which is attested to us in the regard of ancient simulacra in sanctuaries, from literary sources, and especially from Pausanias, are noticeable in the first stone sculptures that have come down to us.
According to Justinshoes.net, these incunabula of stone carving that we own cannot date back to the end of the seventh century BC. C. and in them we can perceive three distinct types: the virile figure, beardless, naked and standing, that is the type of the so-called ko ũ ros or archaic Apollo; the female figure dressed and standing, the so-called kór ẽ ; the figure is either male or female with dress, seated. Everything is linked, schematic, primitive.
An example of a very archaic kõros is that of Orcomeno, of hard gray limestone, with a large head, with arms descending along the sides and rigidly attached to the body. Afterwards we can mention the ko ũ ros of Tera, with its elongated and bony face, that of Milo, the statues of Cleobi (v.) And Bitone di Polimede (?) Argivo, from the sanctuary of Delphi, the so-called Apollo of Tenea. Three details are constantly expressed in these and other ko ũ roi, and were believed to be of Egyptian derivation, thus making Greece dependent, for what concerns the sculpture, from Egypt of the Filellena Saitic dynasty (663-525 BC): the hairstyle of the crown with two sloping shoulders, which corresponds to the Egyptian klaft, the hand with the major fingers closed and the thumb extended, the left leg advanced instead of the right. And there are differences in these ko ũ roi, for which we must assume different artistic currents; thus the Apollo of Tenea, of Parian marble, of slender shapes, with pointed facial features, has the archaic smile that would like to express the feelings of the soul, and has eyes on the skin, which already hint at obliquity. Perhaps in the statue of Tenea we have a product of the spiritual Ionian art. Instead, the two athletes from Delphi, of Argive school, are stocky, heavy, with a brutal face, big eyes and a mouth without a smile.
Typical examples for the standing female figure are the statue dedicated by Nicandra to Delos (see fig. Sv artemide), incorporeal, similar to a thin planed beam, and the statue of Chēramýēs dedicated to Hera (see) on the island of Samos, resembling a round tree trunk. While in the statue of Delos we have the prototype of the figure of kór ē in Doric peplos, in the statue of Samo it is the Ionic prototype, in the scheme of lifting a hem of the dress with one hand and holding in the other hand an attribute (flower, fruit, crown, etc.).
For the seated figure the earliest example could be the torso of Eleútherna in Crete, if, as is probable, it belonged to a seated statue of a woman. It is of coarse and summary execution; the two limestone simulacra of a goddess or seated priestess placed at the end of an architrave of the temple A in Prinià (Crete) are connected to it; the primitive Cretan sculpture would still be documented by a limestone statuette showing a standing woman with a high belt on the Doric chiton, formerly in the Auxerre museum and now in the Louvre museum. This Cretan current has its offshoots in the Peloponnese; thus we can adduce next to Eleútherna’s torso the statue of a seated woman from Agiorgítika in Arcadia; the two Argive athletes of Delphi and the head of Hera in limestone, twice the size of natural, belong to the same current.
Now in the literary tradition we have news of this current of Cretan-Peloponnesian sculpture in the names of Daedalus, a legendary artist, whose personality is erroneously placed next to that of Minos, and of the Dedalides who worked in the Peloponnese, that is Chirisofo, Dipeno and Scilli.
Another current of art attested to us by the literary tradition is that of Chios, so on the basis of Pliny (Nat. Hist., XXXVI, 11) we can reconstruct, so to speak, the genealogical tree: Mela, the son Micciade, the grandson Archermo, whose sons were Bupalus and Athenis, the last of whom flourished around the ol. 60 (540 BC). It seems to this current that the Nıke of Delos belongs (see fig. Sv archermo) in which it is the attempt, still clumsy, to represent a figure in strong movement, and in which the upper part of the body, in full elevation, is in sharp contrast with the lower part, in full profile, and in which the legs and arms are now detached from the body.