A Sibyl

  • Artist: Guercino
  • Creation date: Antagelig 1627
  • Object type: Drawing


Guercino was an acclaimed and much sought-after artist during his lifetime. He spent most of his life in the Emilia-Romagna region of Northern Italy, partly in his native town of Cento and partly in Bologna, where he became the city’s leading painter in the 1640s. Later assessments of his work have varied, but following a reputational downturn during the nineteenth century, he is once again counted among the foremost Baroque painters, and not least as an uncommonly gifted draughtsman.

Several of Guercino’s drawings are preparatory sketches for paintings. This also applies to this drawing of a sitting woman, which can be linked to a series of frescoes from an important period in the artist’s career. In 1626 he was commissioned to decorate the dome of the cathedral in Piacenza with a number of frescoes, including eight monumental depictions of sibyls, the mythological seers of antiquity. As was his wont, Guercino worked on the commission with great alacrity, and the frescoes were completed already the next year.

Like many other artists, Guercino used studies on paper to develop his final version. This drawing exemplifies how he would experiment with the posture and attire of the individual figures. The sketch was quickly executed in pen and wash, and its air of being a compositional sketch is reinforced by the figure’s placement within a delimited pictorial space.

It is often difficult to connect seventeenth- century drawings to one particular artist, and attributions frequently change. This drawing is an exception, however, in that it can be traced all the way back to Guercino’s workshop.

Text: Bodil Sørensen

From "Highlights. Art from Antiquity to 1945", Nasjonalmuseet 2014, ISBN 978-82-8154-088-0



Born 1591 in Cento, death 1666 in Bologna, Italia

Work info

Creation date:
Antagelig 1627
Other titles:
Sibylle (NOR)
Object type:
Materials and techniques:
Penn og lavering på papir
  • Width: 164 mm
  • Height: 264 mm
Testamentarisk gave fra Sophus Larpent, innkommet 1914
Inventory no.:
Cataloguing level:
Single object
Owner and collection:
Nasjonalmuseet for kunst, arkitektur og design, The Fine Art Collections
Anne Hansteen
© Turner, Nicholas