persian sibyl

Persian Sibyl (1647).Giovanni Francesco Barbieri, best known as Guercino (Italian, 1591–1666). Oil on canvas. Capitoline Museums.

The Persian Sibyl (also known as the Babylonian, Hebrew or Egyptian Sibyl) was the prophetic priestess presiding over the Apollonian Oracle.The Persian Sibyl has had at least three names, Sambethe, Helrea and Sabbe. Guercino identified (on the book) his subject as Sibilla Persica. 

Michelangelo, Sistine Chapel Ceiling (Vatican, Vatican City, Rome, Italy), 1508-12

Top to bottom: Expulsion of Adam and Eve (center), Creation of Eve with Ezekiel, Cumaean Sibyl, Creation of Adam (center), God Gathering the Waters (center), Persian Sibyl, Daniel, God Creating the Sun, Moon, and Planets (center). The spandrels and lunettes depict the ancestors of Jesus. Michelangelo’s ceiling established a new style in Renaissance painting. It is said that Michelangelo objected to the limitations of Julius’s initial order for the ceiling and that the pope told the artist to paint what he liked. This Michelangelo probably did but the commission probably involved an adviser and the pope’s approval, and a team of assistants. In the final composition, illusionistic marble architecture established a framework for figures in the vault; short pilasters are decorated with gold putti. Set within the frames are sibyls (female prophets) and figures of the Old Testament. In cornices are heroic nude male figures, ignudi, holding sashes with gold medallions. Fictive stone bands divide the center ceiling into compartments inside of which are painted scenes of the Creation, Fall, and Flood. God’s earliest actions are closest to the altar, the Creation of Eve in the center, followed by imperfect actions of humanity: Temptation, Expulsion, God’s destruction if all people except Noah and his family by the Flood (Marilyn Stokstad, Art History, Volume Two. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, 2008, 671).

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