(b. 1483, Urbino, d. 1520, Roma)

The Sibyls

c. 1514
Fresco, width at base 615 cm
Santa Maria della Pace, Rome

In 1514 Raphael executed another small but significant fresco cycle for Agostino Chigi. The frescoes represent the Prophets and Sibyls. They are located in the chapel at the left of the apse of the Church of Santa Maria della Pace in Rome. The Sibyls sit above the arch that leads to the second private chapel of the banker Chigi. The turning movements of the bodies are reminiscent of those of The Virtues in the Stanza della Segnatura, but the coloration suggests they were painted at a later date.

The figures occupy a trabeated loggia, on two levels. The structure of the loggia reflects the architecture of the chapel: its arches coincide with those of the window and entrance. The Prophets (Habakkuk, Jonah, David and Daniel, according to the most widely accepted interpretation) are generally attributed to a collaborator (perhaps Timoteo Viti) who must have based them on an original drawing by Raphael, for they are highly coherent. The Sibyls (Cumaean, Persian, Phrygian and Tiburtine) are attributed to Raphael. Like the Virtues in the Stanza della Segnatura, each of the figures is accompanied by an angel who indicates the divine spirit present in their prophecies. Between the Sibyls at the top of the arch is a small angel holding a lighted torch, the symbol of prophecy, which enlightens the darkness of the future.