Studies for the Libyan Sibyl (recto)
Studies for the Libyan Sibyl (recto)
The Met Open Access Images Studies for the Libyan Sibyl (recto); Studies for the Libyan Sibyl and a small Sketch for a Seated Figure (verso) Artist: Michelangelo Buonarroti (Italian, Caprese 1475–1564 Rome) Date: ca. 1510–11 Medium: Red chalk, with small accents of white chalk on the left shoulder of the figure in the main study (recto); soft black chalk, or less probably charcoal (verso) Dimensions: Sheet: 11 3/8 x 8 7/16 in. (28.9 x 21.4 cm) Classification: Costumes-Printed and Painted Credit Line: Purchase, Joseph Pulitzer Bequest, 1924 Accession Number: 24.197.2 This double-sided sheet of closely observed life studies is the most magnificent drawing by Michelangelo in North-America, purchased by the Metropolitan Museum of Art on August 8, 1924 (its acquisition being voted by the museum’s acquisitions committee on June 9, 1924), in great part thanks to negotiations by the eminent painter, John Singer Sargent, with the widow of Aureliano de Beruete, its previous owner (file no. D7950, Archive Department of Drawings and Prints, The Metropolitan Museum of Art). The much smaller than life-size studies on the famous recto side of the Metropolitan sheet were clearly done from a young male assistant posing in the artist’s studio, being preparatory for the design of the Libyan Sibyl, the monumental enthroned female figure painted in fresco on the north-east end of the Sistine Ceiling. The Libyan Sibyl was the last of the seers to be frescoed on the north part of the vault, executed in a scale that is about three times life-size (the overall area of this part in the fresco measures 4.54 meters by 3.80 meters); she is clothed except for her powerful shoulders and arms, and wears an elaborately braided coiffure. Her complex pose in the fresco, evidently requiring study in numerous drawings, plays on the arrested motion of her stepping down from the throne, while holding an enormous open book of prophecy which she is about to close.
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