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The Libyan Sibyl

modeled 1861, carved 1868 William Wetmore Story Born: Salem, Massachusetts 1819 Died: Vallombrosa, Italy 1895 marble 57 x 30 7/8 x 43 3/4 in. (144.8 x 78.4 x 111.1 cm.) Smithsonian American Art Museum Bequest of Henry Cabot Lodge through John Ellerton Lodge 1925.6.3 Smithsonian American Art Museum
2nd Floor, East Wing


Gallery Label

A sybil was an ancient prophetic priestess who guarded her writings that foretold the future. The emblem on this sybil's necklace is an ancient symbol indicating her mystical powers, though today it is commonly associated with the Jewish Star of David, and with Exodus, and the escape of the Jewish people from slavery. The Libyan Sybil sits contemplating the fate of the African people, after reading the scroll she holds in her left hand. William Wetmore Story conceived this sculpture after the onset of the Civil War, and his letters confirm that he intended it to be a symbolic condemnation of African American slavery: "She is looking out of her black eyes into futurity and sees the terrible fate of her race. This is the theme of the figure -- Slavery on the horizon."

Keywords

Emblem - Star of David

Figure female - full length

Figure female - nude

Mythology - classical - Sibyl

sculpture

stone - marble

About William Wetmore Story

Born: Salem, Massachusetts 1819 Died: Vallombrosa, Italy 1895

More works in the collection by
William Wetmore Story

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