Michelangelo Buonarroti (Italian, Caprese 1475–1564 Rome), Studies for the Libyan Sibyl (recto), ca. 1510–11. Red chalk, with small accents of white chalk on the left shoulder of the figure in the main study (recto); soft black chalk, or less probably charcoal (verso). Sheet: 11 3/8 x 8 7/16 in. (28.9 x 21.4 cm). Purchase, Joseph Pulitzer Bequest, 1924; 24.197.2 © 2000–2016 The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
This famous sheet is made up of studies for the figure of the Libyan sibyl painted on the northeast end of the Sistine Chapel ceiling. While the artist worked out the figure's pose by drawing a male studio assistant, as seen here, he ultimately painted a female figure. The sketches include juxtapositions of finished and unfinished in the movement between the sculptural effects and lustrous highlights of some of the anatomical fragments and in other areas that are less carefully worked out. This work demonstrates the artist's approach, also evident in his sculpture, in which he paid enormous attention to certain aspects of the figure but, in many cases, left the full composition in an incomplete state. This outcome, accidental on the artist's part, was of enormous influence beginning in Michelangelo's lifetime through the 19th century, as seen in works by artists such as Rodin.
This work is exhibited in the “Unfinished: Thoughts Left Invisible” exhibition, on view through September 4th, 2016. #MetBreuer