Thursday, 27 April 2017

Luigi Fabri’s huge etching of Michelangelo’s “Libyan Sibyl”


Luigi Fabri (aka Aloysius Fabri) (1775/78–1835)
“Libyan Sibyl” (La Sibilla Libica), 1831-34, from the series of 37 plates, “Volta Della Cappella Sistina” (of which Fabri etched 13 plates), published by Calcografia Camerale (Rome), after the drawing by Francesco Giangiacomo (1782–1864) of Michelangelo Buonarroti’s (1475–1564) fresco in the Sistine Chapel.

Etching on heavy wove paper with margins (as published?).
Size: (sheet) 96.5 x 67.5 cm; (plate) 88.7 x 59.5 cm; (image borderline) 82.5 x 55 cm
Inscribed within the image: (upper left) “MICHAEL ANGELUS / BONAROTIUS / PINXIT”; (upper right) “IN SIXTINO / VATICANO / SACELLO”
Lettered in the plate below the image borderline: (left) “Franc. Giangiacomo del.”; (centre) “GREGORIO DECIMO SEXTO PONT. MAX. / Rome ex Calcographia R.C.A.”; (right) “Al. Fabri scul.”

National Institute for Graphics / Istituto Centrale per la Graficaoffers offers a description of this print:

Condition: richly inked, excellent impression with generous margins. This is an exceptionally large print. The image area is in near faultless condition but the margins show signs of handling with kinks, small dents and tears, folds and light soiling.

I am selling this immense (absolutely huge!) etching of Michelangelo’s very famous “Libyan Sibyl” for the total cost of AU$360 (currently US$268.75/EUR246.85/GBP208.33 at the time of posting this listing) including postage and handling to anywhere in the world.
If you are interested in purchasing this visually stunning print, please contact me (oz_jim@printsandprinciples.com) and I will send you a PayPal invoice to make the payment easy.


I was leafing through Bernadine Barnes’ (2010) scholarly book, “Michelangelo in Print: Reproductions as Response in the Sixteenth Century”, and stumbled upon a proposed reason why reproductive printmakers tended to focus on Michelangelo’s paintings of sibyls and prophets more than other images in the Sistine Chapel. Sadly, I’ve lost the place in the book where this idea was proposed, but it makes sense to me: these figures were the easiest for draughtsmen to examine looking up to the ceiling without craning their heads too uncomfortably (my apologies to Barnes if my memory of the proposal isn’t quite right). I like answers like this that are rooted in fundamental creature comfort as I too would be a tad lazy as an artist if I were to choose a section of the ceiling to spend hours upon hours to draw.

After reading this idea I had a look at photographs of the ceiling to see where the biblical luminaries were positioned and then the thought hit me: I now know why Michelangelo shows some architectural features as if one is looking upwards—which of course one does when looking up to the ceiling—and yet he shows an eye-level view of the sibyl’s head. In fact Michelangelo shows even a slightly higher than eye-level view of this head. The answer is simple: the pendentive (i.e. the curved triangle of vaulting) upon which the sibyl is painted, is vertically curved around the sibyl’s feet but “flattens” out to a vertical-eye-level view towards the head. For me this is fascinating … I had forgotten about anamorphic projection!






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