- Museum number
Sibyl in an elaborate head-dress; nearly half-length to half-right, looking upwards, wearing a bejewelled head-dress, tied beneath her chin.
Pen and brown ink
- Production date
- 1440-1450 (circa)
Height: 202 millimetres
Width: 138 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- Edited from J.Rowlands, 'Drawings by German Artists and Artists from German-speaking regions of Europe in the Department of Prints and Drawings at the British Museum: the Fifteenth Century, and the Sixteenth Century by Artists born before 1530', London, BM Press, 1993, no. 43:
Acquired as a work by Schongauer, this finely executed drawing is more likely to be earlier in date and in an Upper Rhenish hand. The features of the woman are rendered with much idiosyncrasy, and the pear-shaped head is curiously emphasised by an extravagant, bejewelled head-dress. Similar facial types and head attire are seen in the paintings of Konrad Witz (1400/10-1444/6): such as his portrayal of Solomon, in 'Solomon and the Queen of Sheba' (Berlin, Gemäldegalerie, inv. no. 1701; Gantner, 'Witz', pls. 26, 28) and Ahasuerus, in 'Esther before Ahasuerus' (Basel, Kunstmuseum, inv. no. 643; Gantner, 'Witz', pls. 23, 25). This suggests that the draughtsman of this sheet belonged to the circle of Witz. No comparable drawings associated with Witz are known to have survived. The few associated with him either have the appearance of copies (Erlangen, Universitätsbibliothek; Kuhrmann, 'Erlangen', pl. 22; Berlin, Kupferstichkabinett, KdZ. 1971; Bock, 'Berlin', i, p. 88, ii, pl. 118) or may be attributed to followers (Berlin, Kupferstichkabinett, KdZ. 2169, Bock, 'Berlin', i, p. 64, ii, pl. 92, as Lochner; Erlangen, Universitätsbibliothek; Bock, 'Erlangen', nos. 47, 48, 49, 52, repr.). There are two drawings of sibyls also with elaborate head-dresses at Basel, evidently formerly part of a series (Falk, 'Basel', p. 51, nos. 33, 34, repr.). They are also in an Upper Rhenish hand, but unlike the present drawing, they bear no clear relation with Witz and are probably later in date. The portrayal of the sibyls in fashionable head attire was a strong tradition in fifteenth-century Germany. Notable examples are the sibyl in the early engraving by the Master E.S. of the 'Emperor Augustus and the Tiburtine Sibyl' (Lehrs, ii, pp. 271-4, no. 192); and the carved busts of sibyls on the choirstalls in the Münster at Ulm, of 1474, by Jörg Syrlin the Elder (active c. 1458-c. 1491). Waterman has suggested that this particular headress and the upward gaze of the figure suggests that she represents the Tiburtine sibyl looking towards the apparition of the Virgin and Child in the heavens.
Lit from Rowlands: BM Dürer and Holbein, p. 37, no. 18, repr.
Additional lit: J.P. Waterman in 'From Van Eyck to Dürer', exhibition catalogue edited by Till-Holger Borchert, Groeningemuseum, Bruges, 2010, p.290, no.126
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1984, BM, Master Drawings & Watercolours, no. 42
1988, July-Oct, BM, Age of Dürer & Holbein, no.18
2010/11 Oct-Jan, Bruges, Groeningemuseum, From Van Eyck to Dürer
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number