Studies for the Libyan Sibyl (recto); Studies for the Libyan Sibyl and a small Sketch for a Seated Figure (verso)

Michelangelo Buonarroti (Italian, Caprese 1475–1564 Rome)

ca. 1510–11
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)
sheet: 11 3/8 x 8 7/16 in. (28.9 x 21.4 cm)
Credit Line:
Purchase, Joseph Pulitzer Bequest, 1924
Accession Number:
  • Description

    This is the most magnificent drawing by Michelangelo in the United States. A male studio assistant posed for the anatomical study, which was preparatory for the Libyan Sibyl, one of the female seers frescoed on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel (Vatican Palace) in 1508-12. In the fresco, the figure is clothed except for her powerful shoulders and arms, and has an elaborately braided coiffure. Michelangelo used the present sheet to explore the elements that were crucial in the elegant resolution of the figure's pose, especially the counterpoint twist of shoulders and hips and the manner of weight-bearing on her toe. Recent research shows that this sheet of studies was owned by the Buonarroti family soon after Michelangelo's death. The "no. 21" inscribed on the verso of the sheet (at lower center) fits precisely into a numerical sequence found on many other drawings by the artist that have this early Buonarroti family provenance.

  • Signatures, Inscriptions, and Markings

    Inscription: On recto, annotated in pen and light brown ink at lower left: "di Michel Angelo bona Roti"; annotated at upper right: "58"; unidentified paraph annotated in pen and darker brown ink at lower center. On verso, annotated in pen and brown ink at upper right: "58"; annotated by early 16th century hand at lower center, following the same numbering system of the Michelangelo drawings in the Buonarroti family: "nº.2i".

    Marking: Unidentified paraph in pen and dark brown ink at lower center. According to catalog card: "Not in Lugt, but close to Mrks of E. Jabach (see Ref. Dussler)."

  • Provenance

    Buonarroti family (Italian), Florence; Carlo Maratti (Italian, Camerano 1625–1713 Rome); Andrea Procaccini (Italian, Rome 1671–1734 La Granja de San Ildefonso); Aureliano de Beruete (Madrid); Isabel de Regoyos (Madrid)

  • Exhibition History

    National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.. "Michelangelo Draftsman (Washington, D.C.)".

    The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Drawings and Prints: Selections from the Permanent Collection," May 6, 1996–July 28, 1996.

    Graphische Sammlung Albertina. "Michelangelo: The Drawings of a Genius (Vienna)," October 7, 2010–January 9, 2011.

  • Catalogue Raisonné

    Dussler 1959, no. 339 (Attributed to Michelangelo); Tolnay, I, 1975, no. 156r & v; Bean and Turcic 1982, no. 131; Perrig 1991, pp. 22, 26, 30, 50-51, 58, 132 nn. 167-68 fig. 8.

  • References

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  • See also