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Sibyl Seated with Tablet

Accession Number

Sibyl Seated with Tablet

Bartolomeo Coriolano

Artist Nationality
Italian (culture or style)

Object Creation Date
17th century

Medium & Support
chiaroscuro woodcut on laid paper

10 1/16 in. x 7 1/2 in. ( 25.6 cm x 19 cm )

Credit Line
Gift of J. Frederick Hoffman

Label copy
Bartolomeo Coriolano
Italy, circa 1599–circa 1676
Seated Sibyl with Tablet
Chiaroscuro woodcut printed with line block and one tone block on laid paper
Gift of J. Frederick Hoffman, 2009/2.23
Why did Guido Reni choose to have his drawings reproduced through Coriolano’s chiaroscuro woodcuts? The medium had largely fallen into neglect in Italy during the seventeenth century. Reni’s financial difficulties at the end of his life, fed by an insatiable gambling habit, probably lured him to the relatively easy profits promised by prints made after his work, yet most artists used the far more common medium of engraving to create such reproductive prints. Reni’s deeper motivations are indicated by the similarities between this print of a sibyl holding a blank tablet and Ugo da Carpi’s woodcut of a related subject from 1518. The link suggests that Reni selected the unusual medium of chiaroscuro woodcut in order to promote an association with Raphael, whose work had been famously reproduced in this medium by Ugo da Carpi over a century earlier.

Subject matter
The print depicts an ancient prophetess, known as a sibyl, holding a pen and awaiting a prophecy that she will inscribe on the blank tablet held in her lap. The chiaroscuro woodcut was probably made by Coriolano after a drawing by the famous painter Guido Reni (1575-1642). Reni, in turn, apparently found inspiration for this work in a chiaroscuro woodcut of a similar subject made by the artist Ugo da Carpi after Raphael over a century earlier.

Physical Description
A woman wearing long robes sits holding a pen in her right hand and props up a blank tablet in her lap. A putto helps support the table from behind and points toward the seated figure. A pot of ink with another pen appears next to his foot.

Primary Object Classification

Primary Object Type
chiaroscuro woodcut

Collection Area

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chiaroscuro woodcuts
putti (motifs)
tablets (information artifacts)

& Author Notes

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