Studies for the Libyan Sibyl and a small Sketch for a Seated Figure (verso)
Studies for the Libyan Sibyl and a small Sketch for a Seated Figure (verso)
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 Sketched in soft black chalk, the verso of the double-sided Metropolitan sheet was possibly drawn before the better-known recto side with its meditated red chalk studies; many of Michelangelo’s drawings for the early parts of the Sistine Ceiling are in a similarly soft black-chalk technique (examples of early Sistine studies in soft black chalk are British Museum inv. 1859,0625.567, London; Teylers Museum inv. A 18 verso, Haarlem; Casa Buonarroti inv. nos. 64 F and 75 F, Florence; Musée du Louvre Département des Arts Graphiques inv. 860, Paris; Biblioteca Reale inv. 15627 D.C., Turin.), while a preponderance of sheets done for the later parts of the frescoes are in red chalk. The verso of the Metropolitan sheet portrays at center, in profile the large nude seated figure of the sibyl (here, the softer anatomical forms may be feminine, rather than masculine as they evidently are in the case of the studies on the recto), at upper right a very summary design of a much smaller figure in three-quarter view facing left (its style generally resembles the motifs in the "Oxford Sketchbook": see Ashmolean Museum nos. 1846.45 to 1846.52), and at lower right the detail study of the sibyl’s right knee. The main study in red chalk, on what is today considered the recto of the Metropolitan double-sided sheet, portrays the seated youth with head in profile, bent arms and upper body turned in an elegant contrapposto stance, to display the formidable musculature of his back in a rear view. Michelangelo considered the position of the shoulders turning into the depth of space, with especial attention, indicating also with two small circles the prominence of the supraspinatus muscles (the accents with tiny touches of white chalk on the left shoulder are likely a later retouching, but create a most intense highlight).
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