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Italian, Venetian, Augustus and the Sibyl

Key facts
Full title Augustus and the Sibyl
Artist Italian, Venetian
Date made about 1500
Medium and support Oil on wood
Dimensions 17.5 × 38.5 cm
Acquisition credit Layard Bequest, 1916
Inventory number NG3086
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
Augustus and the Sibyl
Italian, Venetian

An elderly bearded man kneels in a landscape, gazing up at the Virgin Mary and Christ Child who float in the sky. Behind him a rather astonished-looking young woman throws up her hands. This is the Emperor Augustus' encounter with the sibyl, a pagan prophetess.

According to medieval legend, on the day of Christ’s birth the Roman Emperor asked the sibyl if anyone would ever be born who would be more powerful than he was. She showed him a vision of the Virgin and Child hovering in the sky above Rome, here shown as a Renaissance city. This small panel was possibly once part of a piece of furniture.

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