This handsome work ranks as one of Corot's most accomplished efforts at approximating Raphael’s High Renaissance style. Its pose closely follows the portrait of Bindo Altoviti (National Gallery of Art, Washington), believed, in Corot’s day, to be Raphael’s self-portrait, but Corot arrived at this composition incrementally. X-radiographs reveal an earlier state in which the model plays the cello: the left hand held the neck of the instrument and the right hand, slightly raised, held the bow. Corot made several adjustments to these accessories before painting them out altogether, dropping the model’s right hand to her lap and inserting a rose or pink in her left hand.
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Artist:Camille Corot (French, Paris 1796–1875 Paris)
Medium:Oil on canvas
Dimensions:32 1/4 x 25 1/2 in. (81.9 x 64.8 cm)
Credit Line:H. O. Havemeyer Collection, Bequest of Mrs. H. O. Havemeyer, 1929
Alfred Robaut, Paris (until 1899; sold on February 21 for Fr 6,000 to Durand-Ruel); [Durand-Ruel, Paris, 1899; stock no. 5026, as "Italienne"; sold on December 8, 1899 or January 25, 1900 to Durand-Ruel, New York]; [Durand-Ruel, New York, 1899/1900–1903; stock no. 2286; sold on February 7, 1903, for $6,000 to Havemeyer]; Mr. and Mrs. H. O. Havemeyer, New York (1903–his d. 1907); Mrs. H. O. (Louisine W.) Havemeyer, New York (1907–d. 1929; cat., 1931, pp. 64–65; 2nd ed., 1958, p. 15, no. 77)
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The H. O. Havemeyer Collection," March 10–November 2, 1930, no. 18 (as "The Sibyl") [2nd ed., 1958, no. 77].
Toledo Museum of Art. "The Spirit of Modern France: An Essay on Painting in Society, 1745–1946," November–December 1946, no. 35 (as "The Sybil" [sic]).
Art Gallery of Toronto. "The Spirit of Modern France: An Essay on Painting in Society, 1745–1946," January–February 1947, no. 35 (as "The Sybil" [sic]).
Fort Worth Art Association. "Homer, Eakins, Ryder, Inness and Their French Contemporaries: A Loan Exhibition . . .," March 11–April 15, 1949, no. 2 (as "The Sibyl").
Paris. Musée du Louvre. "Figures de Corot," June–September 1962, no. 69.
New York. Wildenstein. "Corot," October 30–December 6, 1969, no. 64.
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. "Masterpieces of Painting in The Metropolitan Museum of Art," September 16–November 1, 1970, unnumbered cat.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Barbizon: French Landscapes of the Nineteenth Century," February 4–May 10, 1992, no catalogue (as "Sibyl").
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Splendid Legacy: The Havemeyer Collection," March 27–June 20, 1993, no. A114.
Paris. Galeries nationales du Grand Palais. "Corot 1796–1875," February 27–May 27, 1996, no. 142.
Ottawa. National Gallery of Canada. "Corot 1796–1875," June 21–September 22, 1996, no. 142.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Corot," October 29, 1996–January 19, 1997, no. 142.
Paris. Musée d'Orsay. "La collection Havemeyer: Quand l'Amérique découvrait l'impressionnisme...," October 20, 1997–January 18, 1998, no. 10.
Madrid. Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza. "Corot: Naturaleza, Emoción, Recuerdo," June 7–September 11, 2005, no. 65.
Ferrara. Palazzo dei Diamanti. "Corot: Naturaleza, Emoción, Recuerdo," October 9, 2005–January 8, 2006, no. 65.
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. "The Masterpieces of French Painting from The Metropolitan Museum of Art: 1800–1920," February 4–May 6, 2007, no. 13.
Berlin. Neue Nationalgalerie. "Französische Meisterwerke des 19. Jahrhunderts aus dem Metropolitan Museum of Art," June 1–October 7, 2007, unnumbered cat.
Staatliche Kunsthalle Karlsruhe. "Camille Corot: Natur und Traum," September 29, 2012–January 20, 2013, no. 131.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art [The Met Breuer]. "Unfinished: Thoughts Left Visible," March 18–September 4, 2016, unnumbered cat. (colorpl. 103).
Paris. Musée Marmottan Monet. "Corot: Le peintre et ses modèles," February 8–July 8, 2018, no. 42.
Washington. National Gallery of Art. "Corot: Women," September 9–December 31, 2018, no. 34.
Alfred Robaut. L'Œuvre de Corot: Catalogue raisonné et illustré. [reprint 1965]. Paris, 1905, vol. 3, pp. 292–93, no. 2130, ill., calls it "Sibylle" and dates it about 1870.
Julius Meier-Graefe. Camille Corot. 3rd ed. Munich, 1913, ill. p. 153, calls it "Italienerin".
August F. Jaccaci. "Figure Pieces of Corot in America: II." Art in America 2 (December 1913), p. 5, mentions its similarity to another figure in an interior, "Jeune Grecque" (R1995; Shelburne Museum, Vermont).
Etienne Moreau-Nélaton. Corot raconté par lui-même. 2nd rev. ed. [1st ed., 1905]. Paris, 1924, vol. 1, p. 115, fig. 143, calls it "Italienne de Montparnasse" and dates it about 1855 or 1860.
Arsène Alexandre. "La Collection Havemeyer: Courbet et Corot." La Renaissance 12 (June 1929), p. 281, ill. p. 277, as "Italienne".
"Havemeyer Collection at Metropolitan Museum: Havemeyers Paid Small Sums for Masterpieces." Art News 28 (March 15, 1930), ill. p. 37, as "The Sibyl".
C. Bernheim de Villers. Corot: Peintre de figures. Paris, 1930, p. 62, no. 303, ill.
Julius Meier-Graefe. Corot. Berlin, 1930, p. 102, pl. CXXVIII, dates it 1870; notes that the same model posed for "L'Italienne (Woman with a Yellow Sleeve" (R1583; former Niarchos collection, sold Christie's, New York, May 9, 2001, no. 7).
H. O. Havemeyer Collection: Catalogue of Paintings, Prints, Sculpture and Objects of Art. n.p., 1931, pp. 64–65, ill., calls it "Figure Piece—The Sibyl"; describes the costume as Italian.
David Rosen and Henri Marceau. "A Study in the Use of Photographs in the Identification of Paintings." Technical Studies in the Field of the Fine Arts 6 (October 1937), p. 86, figs. 16–17.
Josephine L. Allen and Elizabeth E. Gardner. A Concise Catalogue of the European Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1954, p. 20.
François Fosca. Corot, sa vie et son oeuvre. Brussels, 1958, pp. 138, 145, calls it "L'Italienne".
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. The H. O. Havemeyer Collection. 2nd ed. New York, 1958, p. 15, no. 77, ill., notes that Corot never finished or signed this painting; remarks that the model recalls Raphael.
Sylvie Béguin inFigures de Corot. Exh. cat., Musée du Louvre. Paris, 1962, pp. 150, 160–61, 172, 182, no. 69, ill., states that the title "Sibylle" derives from the name given to the model by Corot; places it within the series of half-length figures of women painted between 1865 and 1872, supporting the date of 1870.
Denys Sutton. "The Significance of Corot." Apollo 77 (September 1962), p. 508, fig. 1.
Charles Sterling and Margaretta M. Salinger. French Paintings: A Catalogue of the Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Vol. 2, XIX Century. New York, 1966, pp. 65–67, ill., compare it to "Woman with a Yellow Sleeve" (R1583, former Niarchos collection).
Edith A. Standen inMasterpieces of Painting in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Exh. cat., Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. New York, , p. 76, ill. (color), remarks that there is nothing to indicate that this subject is either a Greek or Roman sibyl.
Madeleine Hours. Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot. New York, , pp. 152–53, ill. (color), calls it "The Sibyl"; states that she is dressed in a fanciful costume, possibly theatrical, whose colors were "a pretext for introducing unexpected colors into a Parisian setting".
Anthony F. Janson. "Corot: Tradition and the Muse." Art Quarterly, n.s., 1, no. 4 (1978), pp. 308–10, 313, fig. 8, analyzes the title, using previous images of Flora, sibyls, and muses as comparisons; remarks that Corot's ambivalence about the intended meaning of the subject matter prevented him from completing this picture; notes the correspondence with "Self-Portrait with a Palette" (R370, Uffizi, Florence) and posits psychological explanations for Corot's projection of his features onto women's faces.
Antje Zimmermann. "Studien zum Figurenbild bei Corot." PhD diss., Universität Köln, 1986, p. 127 n. 10, pp. 171–73, 177, 293 n. 68, p. 377, fig. 164, suggests similarities to three drawings by Corot from the 1850s (Cabinet des Dessins, Musée du Louvre, Paris; R3076, R3049, R3038).
Fronia E. Wissman. "Corot's Salon Paintings: Sources from French Classicism to Contemporary Theater Design." PhD diss., Yale University, 1989, vol. 1, p. 127 n. 10, in a discussion of Corot's sketches of female spectators, hints at connections to the theater in the late paintings of women; cites this work as an example of a figure whose heavy body envelops her faraway thoughts.
Susan Alyson Stein inSplendid Legacy: The Havemeyer Collection. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1993, pp. 233, 286.
Gary Tinterow inSplendid Legacy: The Havemeyer Collection. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1993, p. 21, colorpl. 18, dates it about 1870; calls it "a great, late, unfinished studio piece in which the painter almost achieves the poise and balance of a Raphael".
Gretchen Wold inSplendid Legacy: The Havemeyer Collection. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1993, pp. 310–11, no. A114, ill. p. 309.
Iain Gale. Corot. London, 1994, pp. 124–25, 144, no. 125, ill. (color), calls it "The Sibyl" and discusses the meaning of the title.
Katharine Baetjer. European Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art by Artists Born Before 1865: A Summary Catalogue. New York, 1995, p. 409, ill.
Michael Pantazzi inCorot. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1996, p. 406 [French ed., "Corot 1796–1875," Paris, p. 471].
Gary Tinterow inCorot. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1996, p. xv n. 9, pp. 324, 332–36, 354, no. 142, ill. (color), fig. 148 [French ed., "Corot, 1796–1875," Paris, pp. 386, 394–95, 396 n. 1, 414, ill. p. 395 (color)], dates it about 1870–73; identifies the model as Agostina, known as "l'Italienne de Montparnasse" [see Ref. Moreau-Nélaton 1924], who also appears in "The Artist's Studio" (R1561; Musée des Beaux-Arts, Lyons) and "Agostina" (R1562; National Gallery of Art, Washington); relates it to Raphael's "Portrait of Bindo Altoviti" (National Gallery of Art, Washington), noting the accessibility of Italian Renaissance paintings to Corot through prints; suggests that since the model held a cello in the first stages of the work, the original subject was Polymnia, muse of music; discusses the discovery of a seated nude underneath the painting; writes that in his unpublished notes, Robaut recorded a drawing of a woman writing at a table on the back of the canvas.
Michael Kimmelman. "Searching Endless Landscapes for the Real Corot." New York Times (November 1, 1996), p. C28.
François Fossier et al. "Corot." Connaissance des arts [special exhibition issue for "Corot, 1796–1875"] (1996), p. 60, fig. 55 (color).
Gary Tinterow inLa collection Havemeyer: Quand l'Amérique découvrait l'impressionnisme. Exh. cat., Musée d'Orsay. Paris, 1997, pp. 19, 42–43, 104, no. 10, ill. (color).
Impressionist and Modern Art: Evening Sale. Christie's, New York. May 9, 2001, p. 33, under no. 7, fig. 2.
Vincent Pomarède inCorot: Naturaleza, Emoción, Recuerdo. Ed. Vincent Pomarède. Exh. cat., Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza. Madrid, 2005, pp. 250, 387, no. 65, ill. p. 264 (color).
Michael Clarke inCorot: Naturaleza, Emoción, Recuerdo. Ed. Vincent Pomarède. Exh. cat., Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza. Madrid, 2005, pp. 30, 333.
Anne Roquebert inCorot: Naturaleza, Emoción, Recuerdo. Ed. Vincent Pomarède. Exh. cat., Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza. Madrid, 2005, pp. 63, 66, 344–45, fig. D.3 (radiograph).
Gary Tinterow inThe Masterpieces of French Painting from The Metropolitan Museum of Art: 1800–1920. Exh. cat., Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. New York, 2007, pp. 32–33, 197–98, no. 13, ill. (color and black and white).
Vincent Pomarède inThe Secret Armoire: Corot's Figure Paintings and the World of Reading. Ed. Mariantonia Reinhard-Felice. Exh. cat., Collection Oskar Reinhart "Am Römerholz," Winterthur. Munich, 2011, p. 36 [German ed., "Corot. L'Armoire secrète: Eine Lesende im Kontext"].
Mariantonia Reinhard-Felice inThe Secret Armoire: Corot's Figure Paintings and the World of Reading. Ed. Mariantonia Reinhard-Felice. Exh. cat., Collection Oskar Reinhart "Am Römerholz," Winterthur. Munich, 2011, pp. 61, 144 [German ed., "Corot. L'Armoire secrète: Eine Lesende im Kontext"].
Maike Hohn inCamille Corot: Natur und Traum. Exh. cat., Staatliche Kunsthalle Karlsruhe. Heidelberg, 2012, pp. 240, 471, no. 131, ill. p. 246 (color).
Asher Ethan Miller inUnfinished: Thoughts Left Visible. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art [The Met Breuer]. New York, 2016, p. 282, colorpl. 103.
Michael Clarke. "Corot: The Painter and his Models." Burlington Magazine 160 (June 2018), p. 500.
Mary Morton inCorot Women. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Art. Washington, 2018, pp. 7–8, 19, 167 n. 18, p. 168 n. 49, pl. 34 (color).
Sébastien Allard. Corot: Le peintre et ses modèles / The Painter and His Models. Exh. cat., Musée Marmottan Monet. Paris, 2018, pp. 151–53, 159–60, 163, no. 42, ill. (color).
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Attributed to Camille Corot (French, Paris 1796–1875 Paris)
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