Oil painting
Oil on canvas
160 cm × 80 cm (62 in × 31 in)

Wikimedia Commons

The Priestess of Delphi is an oil painting in the Pre-RaphaeliteGroup of English artists formed in 1848 to counter what they saw as the corrupting influence of the late-Renaissance painter Raphael. style by the English artist John Maler Collier (1850–1934). Completed in 1891,[1] it depicts a Pythia,[a]The name derives from the Greek Puthō, an early name for Delphi.[2] a priestess of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi who, when seated upon a specially placed tripod in the temple, would be possessed by the god and deliver cryptic prophecies while in a trance,[3] perhaps induced by the presence of the gas ethylene in the vapours emerging beneath her feet; ethlyene is known to induce trances and psychedelic experiences.[4]

The Pythia is shown seated above a crack in the earth from which vapours are issuing. In her left hand is a sprig of laurel – Apollo’s sacred tree[5] – and in the other a bowl containing water from the stream running at the bottom of the fissure, believed to be the source of the vapours.

The picture was donated by the Earl of Kintore, Governor of South Australia between 1889 and 1895, to the Art Gallery of South Australia in 1893, in whose collection it remains today.[1][6]


a The name derives from the Greek Puthō, an early name for Delphi.[2]



Broad, William J. The Oracle: Ancient Delphi and the Science Behind Its Lost Secrets. Penguin Press, 2007.
Gagarin, Michael, editor. “Apollo.” Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Greece and Rome, Oxford  University Press, 2010, https://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/acref/9780195170726.001.0001/acref-9780195170726-e-83.
Hesilrige, Arthur G. M. Debrett’s Peerage and Titles of Courtesy. Dean & Son, 1921.
Knowles, Elizabeth. “Pythia.” The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, Online, Oxford University Press, 2006, https://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/acref/9780198609810.001.0001/acref-9780198609810-e-5803.
Roberts, John. “Delphic Oracle.” Oxford Dictionary of the Classical World, Oxford University Press, 2007, https://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/acref/9780192801463.001.0001/acref-9780192801463-e-673.