The Cumaean Sibyl (1512) by Michelangelo

The Cumaean Sibyl - Michelangelo - 1510

Artwork Information

TitleThe Cumaean Sibyl
Dimensions375 x 380 cm
Art MovementHigh Renaissance
Current LocationSistine Chapel, Vatican

About The Cumaean Sibyl

“The Cumaean Sibyl” is a significant work by the renowned artist Michelangelo, created in the year 1510 during the High Renaissance. This fresco, part of the Sistine Chapel Paintings series, exhibits the mastery of the medium, typical for the period’s artistry. The artwork measures 375 by 380 centimeters and portrays a mythological theme. It graces the walls of the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City, where it stands as a testament to Michelangelo’s enduring legacy.

The artwork depicts the Cumaean Sibyl, an ancient prophetess from Greek mythology, in a moment of contemplation and foresight. She is seated, her muscular form draped in a vibrant orange and blue garment that reflects Michelangelo’s intricate understanding of human anatomy and fabric. Her powerful yet aged figure conveys a sense of wisdom and authority, as she intently studies a large book resting on a tilted stone lectern. Beside her, two putti, or cupids, seem to engage in their own activity, adding a delicate contrast to her imposing presence.

This fresco is enshrined within an architectural illusion, with sculptures set within niches to either side of the Sibyl, enhancing the three-dimensionality of the scene. The label “CVMÆA” can be seen below the figure, identifying the Sibyl by her traditional name associated with the ancient city of Cumae. The Sibyl’s intense focus and the grandeur of the surrounding details exemplify the High Renaissance’s emphasis on classical themes and humanistic traits. Michelangelo’s skill in rendering both the human form and the emotional depth of his subjects is remarkably evident in this masterful depiction.

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