(b. 1475, Caprese, d. 1564, Roma)

The Libyan Sibyl

Fresco, 395 x 380 cm
Cappella Sistina, Vatican

The Libica, or Libyan Sibyl brings pre-Christian prophecy to a close. With a graceful movement, displaying her lovely shoulders, her foreshortened arms, and the lowered profile of her fine head with its gold tresses, she lays aside the open book as if about to close it. It is a large and cumbersome volume which might well contain all former prophecies. The splendid and superbly gowned figure is extremely colourful; gold tints prevail in her dress lined with salmon pink: the gold of wisdom, the only certain kind of knowledge. Here as elsewhere, one marvéls at the extraordinary effects obtained with the cold, flat technique of alfresco painting, which had none of the advantages and material possibilities of oil. This figure is that of a noble lady rather than a prophetess, the opposite and counterpart of the gloomy Jeremiah. A faint smile lightens her otherwise remote air.