Abstract trends

Ídolo calcolítico Pulse para ampliar Ídolo calcolítico (Sala 7, vitrina 7.6)

Plaque Idol

“Abstract design rejects the imitation of any external model, reflecting only the consciousness of its creator” L. Bellassai

This sheet of slate, cut out and engraved with geometric motifs, is called a “plaque idol” and comes from Granja de Céspedes (Badajoz). It belongs to a category of small objects of varying forms made from assorted materials—bone, ivory, stone, clay, etc.—during the Chalcolithic or Copper Age. These objects are known as idols (plaque idols, stone eye idols, phalange idols, etc.), although we cannot be certain that their purpose was related to a belief system. However, these images do tell us more about our ancestors in those remote times, as their graphic creations tended to be based on the human figure.

Different plaque idols present abstract anthropomorphic features (shoulders, head, bulging eyes) and various articles of clothing, decorated with incised geometric motifs that are all quite similar but with minor variations, suggesting that they were probably symbolic elements used to distinguish one individual or group from another.

From a design perspective, the person who made this idol achieved a remarkable synthesis and abstraction of the human figure, reducing it to the most basic geometric form. The decorative details on what may be the figure’s attire are also quite striking. As mentioned, the decoration features geometric shapes that serve as a unit of repetition, creating a grid reminiscent of the patterns or prints used in the contemporary fashion industry. It is a very harmonious design that carefully balances such important compositional factors as proportion, repetition, rhythm and symmetry, but it does not let us see inside the author’s mind, as we lack the code for its correct interpretation. These design units, tending strongly towards abstraction, are frequently found in modern fashion.