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Old Masters, Allegory, Sibyls, Crispijn de Passe, Set of 12 Etchings, Antique, Dutch, 1615


Crispijn de Passe the Elder (c. 1565-1637) (after)
Crispijn de Passe the Elder, Crispijn de Passe the Younger (c. 1597-c. 1670), Magdalena de Passe (1596 or 1600-1638), Simon de Passe (c. 1595-1647) and Crispijn van den Queboorn (1604-1652) (engravers)
Twelve Sibyls
from Duodecim Sibyllarum imagines in aes eleganter incisae
[Twelve Sibyls, Images in Copperplate Engravings]
Arnhem, Netherlands: 1615
Etchings, uncolored
10.5 x 7.75 inches, plate mark, average approximate
13.75 x 9.75 inches, overall, average approximate
$7,200, set of 12, plus title page (i.e. 12 @ $600 each)

The sibyls — female oracles (prophets) of ancient Greek mythology — each portrayed in a complete set of 12 old master etchings. They are represented in the late Renaissance convention with christian attributes. Each seated elegantly dressed woman is shown holding a sacred book or other holy symbols. Many gaze upwards toward a glowing scene representing her respective prophetic vision. In his introductory text, de Passe expressly states his intention that these portraits not be viewed solely as objects of aesthetic appreciation, but “as spiritual images of divinely consecrated prophetesses” (den Hollander et al.).

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Beneath each image is a four-line verse in Latin, publication credits, and the plate number in the lower left corner. Each print was drawn by Crispijn de Passe the Elder and engraved by him, or his children — Simon, Magdalena, and Crispijn the Younger — or by Crispijn van den Queboorn, On the recto of each print is text in Latin and French that lists ancient source texts where the subject’s prophecies appear as well as a sentence that explicitly connects one of her prophecies to Christianity. For example, the text for Sibylla Cimmeria — The Cumaean Sibyl in ancient Greece —  explains that she is represented in the writings of the secular Roman epic poets Virgil and Gnaeus Naevius, but also asserts that she “very expressly prophesied” the birth of Christ. Sibylla Cimmeria is shown gazing upward at a swaddled baby in the heavens, the Latin verse below her image describing a vision of a holy virgin.

A Sibyl was an oracle or prophetess in ancient Greece who was known to prophesy at holy sites under divine influence. During the Renaissance the prophecies of the Sibyls, as recorded in ancient Roman literature, were reinterpreted as having predicted the coming of Christ. The Sistine Chapel ceiling is a notable example of such imagery in Renaissance art, where Michelangelo alternated five Sibyls with seven male prophets from the Hebrew Bible.

List of Plates:

Plate 1: Sibylla Delphica
Plate 2: Sibylla Erythrea
Plate 3: Sibylla Cimmeria
Plate 4: Sibylla Samia
Plate 5: Sibylla Cumana
Plate 6: Sibylla Hellspontiaca
Plate 7: Sibylla Libyca
Plate 8: Sibylla Persica
Plate 9: Sibylla Phrygia
Plate 10: Sibylla Tiburtina
Plate 11: Sibylla Europaea
Plate 12: Sibylla Agrippina

Full title: Duodecim Sibyllarum imagines in aes eleganter incisae: additae insuper singularum breves descriptiones. Una cum praecipuis oraculorum mysteriis versibus expressis.

Condition: Each generally fine, with good margins, having with the usual overall light toning, wear, handling, soft creases. Some minor pale discoloration patches in upper right margin of some plates. Printed with platemark variously askew as typical for prints of this era; nonetheless with good margins for framing evenly. Plate 1 very slightly trimmed, but margins still ample.


den Hollander, August, Mirjam van Veen, Anna Voolstra and Alex Noord, eds. Religious Minorities and Cultural Diversity in the Dutch Republic. Leiden: Brill, 2014. p. 109.

“Sibyls and Prophets.” Vatican Museums. (24 June 2020).

Veldman, I.M. Crispijn de Passe and his Progeny (1564-1670): A Century of print production. Rotterdam: Sound & Vision, 2001. pp. 182, 469.

Additional information


17th Century