The Libyan Sibyl

Copied William Wetmore Story, The Libyan Sibyl, modeled 1861, carved 1868, marble, 5730 7843 34 in. (144.878.4111.1 cm.), Smithsonian American Art Museum, Bequest of Henry Cabot Lodge through John Ellerton Lodge, 1925.6.3
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Artwork Details

The Libyan Sibyl
modeled 1861, carved 1868
5730 7843 34 in. (144.878.4111.1 cm.)
right of chair: (artist's monogram)/ROMA 1868 base: THE LIBYAN SIBYL
Credit Line
Bequest of Henry Cabot Lodge through John Ellerton Lodge
Mediums Description
  • Figure
  • Figure female — nude
  • Figure female — full length
  • Mythology — classical — Sibyl
  • Emblem — Star of David
Object Number

Artwork Description

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."