Head of a Woman

A Study on the Angel of the Virgin of the Rocks

Busto di fanciulla, studio per la "Vergine delle Rocce", c. 1483-1485 (punta metallica e lumeggiature di biacca su carta preparata ocra chiara) (1478/1485) by Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519)Musei Reali

This beautiful drawing, which dates back to 1478–85, was created in metalpoint on prepared paper which, today, is light brown in color. It was not the tone chosen by the artist; rather, its original color has faded over time.

The figure encompasses the typical design characteristics of da Vinci’s "Ritratto di Spalla" (Portrait of the Back).

It is a portrait based on a fixed torso on top of which the movements of the neck, head, face, and, finally, the gaze follow one another.

The sequence resembles the numerous drawings and sketches that da Vinci created in Florence in the late 1470s and early 1480s.

The concise style is characteristic of da Vinci’s best drawings which capture the shape of the figure in very few strokes.

Da Vinci defines some details with chiaroscuro, which gives the image an extreme lightness that the viewer’s eye brings together, even in the parts that are just sketched out.

It is, therefore, a drawing that is “deceptively simple,” as Robert Wallace called it, greatly sophisticated, and psychologically invasive.

The focal point is her gaze, indirectly aimed toward the viewer: a very slight lowering of the eyelids just obscures it.

In the field of portraiture, this delicate sheet of paper constitutes a milestone in the development of animation and the psychological rendering of the portrayed subject.

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