The Delphic Sibyl by Michelangelo

In one glorious motion Delphica turns toward us, her eyes looking in the direction of the Judith scene, her mouth open in a cry of wonder, her hair and cloak blown by what has been described as the wind of the Spirit. As she listens to the words read into her ear by one beautiful attendant putto from a book upheld by the other, she rolls up almost unconsciously the scroll of her prophecies as if it were no longer of any meaning. In a series of magnificent curves, now to left, now to right, the masses of her body, drapery, and the attendant figures well upward and outward. Splendid as the nearby painting of the Deluge is in detail, Michelangelo has reached in The Delphic Sibyl a higher stage of formal control and rhythmic breadth. Her grand left arm and the richly muscled back of her attendant rank among the most beautiful passages of figure drawing in the entire Ceiling.

The excitement of the form is immeasurably increased by the high key of the color, set first of all by the splendid orange of the sibyl's cloak, varied by golden-yellow lights and deep, red-orange shadows. The soft blue lining has contrived to get itself so twisted that the orange side runs behind Delphica's back and over her knees, while a sky-blue stretch goes over her shoulders. Her sea-green tunic is lighted with pale yellow, and in the scarf over her head delicate variants of silver shimmer through lavender-gray middle tones, white lights, and greenish-gray shadows. Her hair is a soft, brownish blonde; her flesh shows a wholly new understanding of the use of color. Terra verde shadows become rosy in the lights; elbows, wrists, and hands are quite pink.