Cybele tristis : an analysis of the statuette of the Magna mater in the James Logie Memorial Collection
Thesis DisciplineArt History
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
This thesis seeks to identify the original context, date and provenance of the statuette of Cybele enthroned currently in the James Logie Memorial Collection. Central to this end is an understanding of certain iconographical characteristics of this work which serve to set it apart from more canonical representations of the seated goddess. These characteristics are: the distinctive gesture of Cybele's left hand; the absence of the tympanum; and the positioning of a lion on the left arm of the throne. In chapter one, an analysis of these features leads to the conclusion that the Logie statuette would have been especially suited to utilisation in a funerary context. In particular, the hand-to-head gesture which is displayed appears to be a borrowing into the Cybele-enthroned tradition of what had served in other genres as a mourning motif. This interpretation is supported by the omission of the tympanum, whose orgiastic connotations would have made it incongruous in a sepulchral environment, and the metamorphosis of the guardian lion into a tame and empathetic companion. These iconographic variations are explained by reference to the emphatic commemoration of Attis in the ritualistic expression of grief which was the Tristia, and to the growing perception of Cybele as a mourning goddess, that is, Cybele tristis. Chapter two argues for the tentative dating of the Logie statuette to the first or second centuries C.E., again on the strength of the distinctive iconographic characteristics of this work and on the chronology of changes made within the cult of Cybele and Attis during this period. Factors which are considered include: the rise to prominence of mourned Attis through the introduction of the Tristia in Rome; and the popularisation of Cybele as a caring, tutelary deity with chthonic associations at a time when the appeal of individualised religious experience began to outweigh adherence to the excessively formalised and impersonal cults of the Roman state. In the final chapter another problematic task is attempted, that is, the identification of the most likely provenance of the Logie statuette. On the basis of the discovery of most iconographically similar representations of Cybele either in, or in close proximity to Bithynia, this province is subsequently put toward as the favoured origin of the work in question. Findings made during a study of Bithynian veneration of Cybele reinforce the validity of this hypothesis. These include: the existence of a long tradition of worship of both the Goddess and her consort; the pronounced emphasis placed on the relationship of individual devotees to Cybele; the considerable status of the tragic figure of Attis; and, more generally, a tendency for Bithynian ateliers to specialise in the production of funerary sculpture.