The small, private Museum of Cycladic Art is a beautifully presented collection that includes objects from the Cycladic civilization (third millennium BC, from the islands of the Cyclades group), pre-Minoan Bronze Age (second millennium BC) and the period from the fall of Mycenae to around 700 BC, plus a selection of Archaic, Classical and Hellenistic pottery.
The Cycladic objects are on the first floor – above all, distinctive marble bowls and folded-arm figurines (mostly female) with sloping wedge heads whose style influenced twentieth-century artists like Moore, Picasso and Brancusi. The exact purpose of the effigies is unknown but, given their frequent discovery in grave-barrows, it’s possible that they were spirit-world guides for the deceased or representations of the Earth Goddess. Their clean, white simplicity is in fact misleading, for they would originally have been painted. Look closely, and you can see that many still bear traces.
Of the ancient Greek art on the upper floors, the highlight is the superb black-figure pottery, especially a collection of painted Classical-era bowls, often showing two unrelated scenes on opposite sides – for example one of the star exhibits depicts revellers on one face and three men in cloaks conversing on the other. On the ground floor and basement there’s a tiny children’s area and a good shop, as well as a pleasant café (with vegetarian choices) in an internal courtyard. A covered walkway connects to the nineteenth-century Stathatos House, magnificently restored as an extension for temporary exhibitions.