Verrocchio, ‘Study of head of Woman’, 1475 (London, British Museum)

Verrocchio, ‘Study of head of Woman’, 1475 (London, British Museum)


Andrea Verrocchio, Head of a Woman, a drawing Italy, around AD 1475

Florentine painter, sculptor and goldsmith

This is one of several drawings, including one on the reverse of this sheet, for the head of a nymph or Venus. The chief study for the nymph is in the Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence, begun by Verrocchio (about 1435-88) and completed by Leonardo, but this drawing is clearly by Verrocchio. The strong outline, heavy – lidded eyes and elaborate hair are all features of Verrocchio ‘s style.

The drawing is a perfect example of the versatility of chalk as a medium for skilful artists in the late fifteenth century. Black chalk has been used softly to suggest the gentle shadows on her cheeks, while white chalk heightens the fall of light. Verrocchio was a sculptor as well as a painter, and his feeling for three – dimensional form is apparent here in the careful shading that creates a sense of volume. Her hair is thin and wispy and is drawn in rapid, thin strokes. When not in elaborate braided patterns and knots, it falls in curls over her shoulders.

Giorgio Vasari, in his Life of Verrocchio, describes similar drawings of women ‘s heads which he kept in his own collection. He added that Leonardo da Vinci, Verrocchio ‘s most famous pupil, frequently imitated such drawings.

Height: 325 m m

Width: 272 m m

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