Raphael, Study for the Phrygian Sibyl, a drawing

Italy, about AD 1511-12

Raphael began this study with an underdrawing using a stylus whose sharp tip left a faint impression on the surface of the paper. He then drew the figure in red chalk on top of that with more fluency. The figure is seated, her head turned back powerfully, her left arm resting on her thigh and her right arm on a rectangular object. Over her body she wears classical drapery which falls dramatically over her left arm and down the length of her body. It was probably drawn from a male model with the strong muscles of the right arm and the neck. The face, however, is idealized, full of the grace and beauty so praised by his contemporaries.

Raphael has used the red chalk to its fullest range. He has concentrated on the head, right arm and deep shadows created in the folds of the drapery. Long sharp lines form the edges of her robes. Below her right sleeve the chalk is used more strongly to show deeper shadow and texture.

This drawing is a study for a figure of a Sibyl (female prophet from the classical world) from the Chigi Chapel in S. Maria della Pace, Rome. Over the chapel arch he painted, in fresco, the four classical sibyls. Raphael decorated this chapel for his friend, the Sienese banker, Agostino Chigi about 1511-12.

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More information


P. Pouncey and J. A. Gere, Italian drawings in the Depa-3 (London, The British Museum Press, 1962)

P. Joannides, The drawings of Raphael (Phaidon, 1983)

R. Jones and N. Penny, Raphael (New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 1983)

F. Ames-Lewis, The draftsman Raphael (New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 1986)

J.A Gere and N. Turner, Drawings by Raphael, from the, exh. cat. (London, The British Museum Press, 1983)


Height: 261.000 mm
Width: 165.000 mm

Museum number

PD 1953-10-10-1



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