|acquired in the portfolio
|estimated current value in €
|consult the updated Price Table
|identification of the subject
|abstract painting/reconstructivist work
|materials and techniques
|oil on canvas/mixed media/material work
|measurements in centimeters cm
|80 x 60 x 1,8
|on the back/bottom/right
|issued at the same time as the sale
|no print issued
|state of conservation
|location of the work
|Rome · Italy
|© all rights reserved · global · S.I.A.E.
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Description of work
Sibyls are both historically existing characters and Greek and Roman mythological figures. They were virgins inspired by a god (usually Apollo) endowed with prophetic virtues and able to make predictions and provide responses, but in an obscure or ambivalent form.
Legendary prophetesses, they were located in various places in the Mediterranean basin: such as in Cumae in Italy, in Delphi in Greece, or in Africa and Asia Minor. Among the best known, the Eritrean Sibyl, the Cumaean Sibyl and the Delphic Sibyl, which are representatives of as many groups: such as the Ionic, the Italic and the Oriental. The sibyls have inspired Christian art since the 11th century in numerous pictorial, sculptural and engraving cycles. They are normally depicted as the female counterparts of the prophets; the most famous example is found in the series of Seers on the vault of the Sistine Chapel, frescoed by Michelangelo. While the prophets announced the Messiah to the Jews, the Sibyls communicated it, albeit in an obscure way, to the pagans, thus completing the work of universal announcement.
In Mozart’s Requiem, the opening line of the famous Dies Irae mentions these two aspects of the prophecy together: “Dies irae, dies illa, solvet saeculum in favilla, teste David cum Sibilla.”
In this work by Valvo, the Sibyl, as an inspiring subject, is transposed in a glacial sense. “Arctic Sibyl” therefore or, we could say, “Polar Sibyl”.
From a purely reconstructivist point of view, the theme emerges here in an extremely fragmented way, through disjointed chromatic strokes. Grayish and diffuse shades contextualise the appearance of the Sibyl, with bright red hair, among moss, ice, snow and rock. In this case, the material technique enhances the environmental harshness. The work is rough as well as cold. The Sibyl reveals herself despite the environmental adversity, softening the visual impact thanks to the warm reddish tones, without which the overall vision would be excessively sparse. One of the key points in reading the work is precisely the elusive appearance of the subject represented. The strong perception we have of the Sibyl’s presence is equal only to the extreme volatility of her permanence on the canvas. An ephemeral presence, one might say, almost ghostly.
Ambiguity is another key point of interpretation of the work.
The equivocality, the ambivalence typical of the Sibylline prophecy, has repercussions here in a visual and structural sense. Just as we cannot visually grasp the Sibyl, her response is equally impenetrable to us. An indecipherable statement. Therefore the Sibyl appears and sanctions, in the same way in which she disappears and is silent. This aspect, this intrinsic characteristic, pervades the entire work and gives rise to a conceptual and pictorial destabilization. The manifestation of an event that denies itself from the beginning is interpretively disorienting. The subject, therefore, is present and absent at the same time.
It is an evanescent subject. Impalpable.
The latter disguises itself, hides and undermines itself in the context, sympathetically assuming the features of the elements that surround it. An example of this is in the redundancy of the reddish square present in the left half of the canvas. As well as the red circle on the upper rib. Or, again, the linear element just below this, which reproduces itself by amplifying its dimension, reaching in this way the center of the canvas.
The third key point in deciphering the work is, obviously, the contrast between the “frosty” element and the “fiery” element, represented by the Sibyl herself. But, as is known, the combination of extremely cold substances with very hot substances can only produce violent phenomena. Here, in fact, we are close to the breaking point.
The artist plays with all these different factors, producing a feeling of instability in the observer. The structural dynamics of the work lies precisely in this: the emotional solicitation of contrasting feelings.
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