Ovid’s 'Metamorphoses' (XIV, 129–153) tells of how the amorous Apollo offered the Cumaean Sibyl anything she desired. She is shown in the painting asking for as many years of life as there are grains of dust in her hands. Although Apollo granted her wish, she still refused him her favours. In retribution, he denied her perpetual youth and she lived for over seven hundred years in increasing misery. Rosa’s expressive brushwork, dark tones and dramatic chiaroscuro, together with his characterisation of the wild landscape of rocks and splintered trees, create a sense of foreboding and mystery in keeping with the melancholy story.
Where to see this painting?
The Wallace Collection
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