Friday, August 18, 2017

Design Drawings for Painted Sibyls (Italian)

Michelangelo
Drapery study for Erythraean Sibyl
ca. 1508-12
drawing
British Museum

Raphael
Phrygian Sibyl
ca. 1511
drawing (recto)
British Museum

Raphael
Drapery study for Phrygian Sibyl
ca. 1511
drawing (verso)
British Museum

SIBYL – One or other of certain women of antiquity who were reputed to possess powers of prophecy and divination.  In later times, the number of these was usually set down as ten, flourishing at different times and places in Asia, Africa, Greece, and Italy.

The spirit of deepe prophecy she hath,
Exceeding the nine Sibyls of old Rome
                                 – William Shakespeare (1591)

The Prophecies of the Sibyls . . .
made many Years after the Events they pretended to foretell
                                 – Joseph Addison (1712)

Their industry had scooped the Sibyll's cave
into a prodigious mine
                                 – Edward Gibbon (1788)

– citations from the Oxford English Dictionary

attributed to Giulio Romano
Sibyl
ca.  1525-30
drawing
Prado, Madrid

Pirro Ligorio
Seated Sibyl and attendant Genius
ca. 1540
drawing
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Daniele da Volterra
Sibyl
ca. 1540-45
drawing
Hermitage, Saint Petersburg

Pellegrino Tibaldi
Sibyl
ca. 1549
drawing
British Museum

Lorenzo Sabbatini
Sibyl seated on clouds with tablet
before 1576
drawing
Royal Collection, Windsor

attributed to Antonio Campi
Sibyl reading
before 1591
drawing
Royal Collection, Windsor

Annibale Carracci
Study for Sibyl
before 1605
drawing
Royal Collection, Windsor

Giulio Cesare Procaccini
Study for Sibyl
before 1625
drawing on blue paper
British Museum

SIBYLLAE – The name given in antiquity to inspired prophetesses of some deity, in particular Apollo.  They were usually regarded as young maidens dwelling in lonely caves or by inspiring springs, who were possessed with a spirit of divination, and gave forth prophetic utterances while under the influence of enthusiastic frenzy.  . . .  Though Plato knew of only one, others mention two, three, four, and even ten or twelve.  In the earliest times they are mentioned as dwelling in the neighborhood of the Trojan Ida in Asia Minor, later at Erythrae in Ionia, in Samos, at Delphi, and at Cumae in Italy.  . . .  The Sibylline Books, so often met with in Roman history, had their origin in a collection of oracular utterances in Greek hexameters, composed in the time of Solon and Cyrus at Gergis on Mount Ida, and ascribed to the Hellespontic Sibyl, buried in the temple of Apollo at Gergis. This collection was brought by way of Erythrae to Cumae, and finally, in the time of the last king, to Rome. According to the legend, the Cumaean Sibyl offered to Tarquinus Superbus nine books of prophecy; and as the king declined to purchase them, owing to the exorbitant price she demanded, burnt all but three of them, which the king purchased for the original price, and had them preserved in a vault beneath the Capitoline Temple of Jupiter.  When they were destroyed in the burning of the Capitol in 88 BC, the Senate sent envoys to make a collection of similar oracular sayings distributed over various places, in particular Ilium, Erythrae, and Samos. This new collection was deposited in the restored temple, together with similar sayings of native origin; e.g. those of the Sibyl at Tibur, of the brothers Marcius, and others.  From the Capitol they were transferred by Augustus as pontifex in 12 BC to the temple of Apollo on the Palatine, after they had been examined and copied; here they remained until about 405 AD.  They are said to have been burnt by Stilicho. The use of these oracles was from the outset reserved for the State, and they were not consulted for the foretelling of future events, but on the occasion of remarkable calamities, such as pestilence, earthquake, and as a means of expiating portents.  It was only the rites of expiation prescribed by the Sibylline books that were communicated to the public, and not the oracles themselves."   

– Oskar Seyffert, from The Dictionary of Classical Mythology, Religion, Literature, and Art, originally published in German in 1882, English translation published in 1891

Guercino
Sibyl
1626
drawing
Royal Collection, Windsor

Guercino
Sibyl
ca. 1626-27
drawing
Royal Collection, Windsor

Guercino
Sibyl holding scroll
1638
drawing
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Sibyls in Sets

attributed to Baccio Baldini
Libyan Sibyl
ca. 1470-80
engraving
British Museum

Girolamo di Benvenuto
Libyan Sibyl
before 1524
drawing
British Museum

Raffaello Schiaminossi
Libyan Sibyl
1609
etching
British Museum

SPELT FROM SIBYL'S LEAVES

Earnest, earthless, equal, attuneable, faulty, voluminous . . . stupendous
Evening strains to be time's vast, womb-of-all, home-of-all, hearse-of-all night.
Her fond yellow hornlight wound to the west, her wild hollow hoarlight hung to the height
Waste; her earliest stars, earlstars, stars principal, overbend us,
Fire-featuring heaven. For earth her being has unbound; her dapple is at an end, as-
tray or aswarm, all throughther, in throngs; self in self steeped and pashed––quite
Disremembering, dismembering all now. Heart, you round me right
With: Our evening is over us; our night whelms, whelms, and will end us.
Only the beakleaved boughs dragonish damask the tool-smooth bleak light; black,
Ever so black on it. Our tale, O our oracle! Let life, waned, ah let life wind
Off her once skeined stained veined variety upon, all on two spools; part, pen, pack
Now her all in two flocks, two folds––black, white; right, wrong; reckon but, reck but, mind
But these two; ware of a world where but these two tell, each off the other; of a rack
Where, selfwrung, selfstrung, sheathe- and shelterless, thoughts against thoughts in groans grind.

– Gerard Manley Hopkins

Hopkins called this poem "the longest sonnet ever made."  In sprung rhythm, eight stresses to the line.  Composed in 1884-85 – title and theme from the Latin hymn Dies irae 'As David and the Sibyl testify . . . what terror shall affright the soul when the Judge comes . . .'

attributed to Baccio Baldini
Delphic Sibyl
ca. 1470-80
engraving
British Museum

Girolamo di Benvenuto
Delphic Sibyl
before 1524
drawing
British Museum

Raffaello Schiaminossi
Delphic Sibyl
1609
etching
British Museum

attributed to Baccio Baldini
Persian Sibyl
ca. 1470-80
engraving
British Museum

Girolamo di Benvenuto
Persian Sibyl
before 1524
drawing
British Museum

Raffaello Schiaminossi
Persian Sibyl
1609
etching
British Museum

attributed to Baccio Baldini
Erythraean Sibyl
ca. 1470-80
engraving
British, Museum

Girolamo di Benvenuto
Erythraean Sibyl
before 1524
drawing
British Museum

Raffaello Schiaminossi
Erythraean Sibyl
1609
etching
British Museum

attributed to Baccio Baldini
Samian Sibyl
ca. 1470-80
engraving
 British Museum

Girolamo di Benvenuto
Samian Sibyl
before 1524
drawing
British Museum

Raffaello Schiaminossi
Samian Sibyl
1609
etching
British Museum

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Twelve Sibyls

Joachim Wichmann
Six Sibyls - Persian, Libyan, Delphic, Cimmerian, Erythraean, Samian
ca. 1648-86
etching
British Museum

Joachim Wichmann
Six Sibyls - Cumaean, Hellespontine, Phrygian, Tiburtine, European, Agrippine
ca. 1648-86
etching
British Museum

Of the named Sibyls active in antiquity, the largest group so-far located in one place consists of the etchings above – representing a dozen different ones – printed from two plates on two sheets in the middle of the seventeenth century and preserved today at the British Museum. Unlike Muses, Sibyls never worked in groups and were only rarely portrayed in groups. If shown in any company at all, they would typically be involved with noble supplicants or high divinities, not one another. The Cumaean Sibyl and the Delphic Sibyl were the most famous in the ancient world. That fact assured those two a corresponding prominence in the Renaissance and its after-ages. A sampling of these early-modern manifestations appears below, focusing on the figure of the Cumaean Sibyl.

Agostino Veneziano
Cumaean Sibyl in a landscape
1516
engraving
British Museum

Girolamo di Benvenuto
Cumaean Sibyl
 before 1524
drawing
British Museum

Adamo Scultori after Michelangelo
Cumaean Sibyl from the Sistine Ceiling
before 1585
engraving
Teylers Museum, Haarlem

Raffaello Schiaminossi
Cumaean Sibyl
1609
etching
British Museum

Domenichino
Cumaean Sibyl
1616-17
oil on canvas
Galleria Borghese, Rome

François Perrier
Aeneas consulting the Cumaean Sibyl
1646
oil on canvas
National Museum, Warsaw

"The nature of Sibylline inspiration is diversely reported.  Virgil offers a famous description of the Cumaean Sibyl uttering ecstatic prophecy under the inspiration of Apollo, but texts from Erythrae or recorded in various ways by Phlegon of Tralles, Plutarch and Pausanias clearly state that the Sibyl spoke under her own inspiration.   . . .  Widespread interest in Sibyls throughout the Mediterranean world probably stems from the connection between the Sibyl and Rome that dates to, at the very latest, the early 5th century BC.  . . .  The Sibyl's intimate connection with Rome made her a natural choice for Christians who sought evidence from pagan sources for the truth of their beliefs.  . . .  Belief that Virgil's Fourth Eclogue (modeled on sibylline prophecy) was in fact inspired by the Cumaean Sibyl combined with this interest to elevate the Sibyl to a position of remarkable importance in Christian literature and art."

– from The Oxford Classical Dictionary, 3rd edition, edited by Simon Hornblower and Antony Spawforth

Claude Lorrain
Coast view with Apollo and the Cumaean Sibyl
ca. 1645-49
oil on canvas
Hermitage, Saint Petersburg

Salvator Rosa
River Landscape with Apollo and the Cumaean Sibyl
ca. 1655
oil on canvas
Wallace Collection, London

Salvator Rosa
Apollo and the Cumaean Sibyl
ca. 1660-65
etching
British Museum

Guercino
Cumaean Sibyl and Winged Genius
1651
oil on canvas
National Gallery, London

Claude Lorrain
Aenaes and the Cumaean Sibyl
1673
drawing on blue paper
British Museum

Joseph Mallord William Turner
Lake Avernus with Aeneas and the Cumaean Sibyl
ca. 1814-15
oil on canvas
Yale Center for British Art

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Dying or Dead Adonis and Mourning Venus

Giovanni da Castelbolognese
Venus and dying Adonis
ca. 1540-45
rock-crystal intaglio
Hermitage, Saint Petersburg

Rome
Pair of Altars with relief-scenes of the death of Adonis
ca. 400-375 BC
terracotta
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

from LAMENT FOR ADONIS

I mourn Adonis dead – loveliest Adonis –
Dead, dead Adonis – and the Loves lament.
Sleep no more, Venus, wrapped in purple woof –
Wake violet-stoled queen, and weave the crown
Of death, – 'tis Misery calls, – for he is dead.

    The lovely one lies wounded in the mountains,
His white thigh struck with the white tooth; he scarce
Yet breathes; and Venus hangs in agony there,
The dark blood wanders o'er his snowy limbs,
His eyes beneath their lids are lustreless,
The rose has fled from his wan lips, and there
That kiss is dead, which Venus gathers yet.

    A deep, deep wound Adonis . . .
A deeper Venus bears upon her heart.
See, his beloved dogs are gathering round –
The Oread nymphs are weeping – Aphrodite
With hair unbound is wandering through the woods,
'wildered, ungirt, unsandalled – the thorns pierce
Her hastening feet and drink her sacred blood.
Bitterly screaming out, she is driven on
Through the long vales; and her Assyrian boy,
Her love, her husband, calls – the purple blood
From his struck thigh stains her white navel now,
Her bosom, and her neck before like snow.

– written in Greek by Bion (1st century BC), translated by Percy Bysshe Shelley (ca. 1822)

Cornelis van Haarlem
Venus and Adonis
1619
oil on canvas
Baltimore Art Museum

Paolo Veronese
Venus and Adonis
ca. 1580
oil on canvas
Prado, Madrid

Annibale Carracci
Venus, Adonis and Cupid
ca. 1590
oil on canvas
Prado, Madrid

workshop of Simon Vouet
Venus and Adonis
ca. 1638
oil on canvas
Hermitage, Saint Petersburg

Giuseppe Mazzuola
Death of Adonis
ca. 1680-1709
marble
Hermitage, Saint Petersburg

from LAMENT FOR ADONIS

I mourn for Adonis – Adonis is dead.
    Weep no more in the woods, Cytherea, thy lover!
So, well! make a place for his corse in thy bed,
    With the purples thou sleepest in, under and over.
He's fair though a corse – a fair corse . . . like a sleeper –
    Lay him soft in the silks he had pleasure to fold,
When, beside thee at night, holy dreams deep and deeper
    Enclosed his young life on the couch made of gold!
Love him still, poor Adonis! cast on him together
    The crowns and the flowers! since he died from the place,
Why let all die with him – let the blossoms go wither;
    Rain myrtles and olive-buds down on his face!
Rain the myrrh down, let all that is best fall a-pining,
    Since the myrrh of his life from thy keeping is swept! –
– Pale he lay, thine Adonis, in purples reclining –

– written in Greek by Bion (1st century BC), translated by Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1853)

Cigoli
Venus and Adonis
ca. 1600-1610
oil on copper
private collection

Luca Cambiaso
Venus and Adonis
before 1585
oil on canvas
Hermitage, Saint Petersburg

Maerten de Vos
Venus and Adonis
before 1603
oil on panel
private collection

Nicolas Poussin
Venus weeping over Adonis
1626
oil on canvas
Musée des Beaux-Arts, Caen

Peter Paul Rubens
Death of Adonis
ca. 1614
oil on canvas
Israel Museum, Jerusalem

Giovanni Antonio Pellegrini
Venus weeping over body of Adonis
ca. 1704
fresco
Villa Alessandri, Mira

Hendrik Goltzius
Dying Adonis
1609
oil on canvas
Rijksmuseum. Amsterdam

from LAMENT FOR ADONIS

Deep in his Thigh, deep went the killing smart,
But deeper far it goes in Venus heart:
His faithful Dogs about the Mountain yell,
And the hard fate of their dead Master tell:
The troubled Nymphs alike in doleful strains
Proclaim his death through all the Fields and Plains:
But the sad Goddess, most of all forlorn,
With love distracted, and with sorrow torn,
Wild in her look, and rueful in her air,
With garments rent, and with dishevel'd hair,
Through Brakes, through Thickets, and through pathless ways,
Through Woods, through Haunts, and Dens of Savages,
Undrest, unshod, careless of Honor, Fame,
And Danger, flies, and calls on his lov'd name.
Rude Brambles, as she goes, her body tear,
And her cut feet with blood the stones besmear.
She thoughtless of the unfelt smart flies on,
And fills the Woods and Vallies with her moan,
Loudly does on the Stars and Fates complain,
And prays them give Adonis back again:
But he, alas; the wretched Youth, alas!
Lies cold, and stiff, extended on the grass:
There lies he steep'd in gore, there lies he drown'd
In purple streams that gush from his own wound.

– written in Greek by Bion (1st century BC), translated by John Oldham (1681)