Sistine Chapel Michelangelo Paintings

By: Lauren Mitchell Ruehring

Cumaean Sibyl Within the Sistine Chapel Ceiling

The imposing figure of Michelangelo's Cumaean Sibyl on the Sistine Chapel ceiling (ceiling 130 feet 6 inches x 43 feet) at the Vatican.
The imposing figure of Michelangelo'sCumaean Sibyl on the Sistine Chapel ceiling(ceiling 130 feet 6 inches x 43 feet) at the Vatican.

Michelangelo'sCumaean Sibyl detail within the Sistine ceiling (1508-12) shows how, while working on the latter section of the ceiling, Michelangelo created figures of an ever-expanding scale.

The Cumaean Sibyl, with her hulking anatomy and immensely muscular left arm, is a rock of faith symbolizing the wisdom and strength of the Roman Catholic Church. Her two books are symbolic of the Old and New Testaments. She reads one, her craggy face expressing her intent absorption, while her attendants hold the other.


Once known for the ethereal beauty of her youth, Cumaea was doomed to appear aged by a spurned Apollo and is seen here, haggard and weatherworn. Her very face takes on the architectural qualities of a once grand but now crumbling structure.

The scene with the Prophet Isaiah by Michelangelo is also an example of the large scale that Michelangelo's individual characters took on later in the project. Learn more on the next page.

To learn more about Michelangelo, art history, and other famous artists, see: