John Still in 1907 suggested, "The whole face of the hill appears to have been a gigantic picture gallery... the largest picture in the world perhaps". The paintings would have covered most of the western face of the rock, covering an area 140 metres long and 40 metres high. There are references in the graffiti to 500 ladies in these paintings. However, many more are lost forever, having been wiped out when the Palace once more became a monastery - so that they would not disturb meditation. Some more frescoes, different from the popular collection, can be seen elsewhere on the rock surface, for example on the surface of the location called the "Cobra Hood Cave".
Although the frescoes are classified as in the Anuradhapura period, the painting style is considered unique; the line and style of application of the paintings differing from Anuradhapura paintings. The lines are painted in a form which enhances the sense of volume of the figures. The paint has been applied in sweeping strokes, using more pressure on one side, giving the effect of a deeper colour tone towards the edge. Other paintings of the Anuradhapura period contain similar approaches to painting, but do not have the sketchy lines of the Sigiriya style, having a distinct artists' boundary line. The true identity of the ladies in these paintings still have not been confirmed. There are various ideas about their identity. Some believe that they are the wives of the king while some think that they are women taking part in religious observances. These pictures have a close resemblance to some of the paintings seen in the Ajanta caves in India
The frescoes, depicting beautiful female figures in graceful contour or colour, point to the direction of the Kandy temple, sacred to the Sinhalese.