Albrecht Dürer (German, 14711528)
Black chalk heightened with white chalk on green prepared paper; 7 7/8 x 6 in. (20 x 15.1 cm)
Robert Lehman Collection, 1975 (1975.1.859)
This head in three-quarter profile is probably one of a group of drawings made by Dürer in 152122 in preparation for a large painting of the Sacra conversazione (Sacred Conversation), a multifigured composition in a unified space with the Virgin and Child surrounded by saints. This sheet may have been a study for the head of Saint Catherine. Like seven of the other drawings, this image was executed on the same green prepared paper. This technique eliminates the white of the paper and incorporates the color of the ground into the subject as an additional value. It also makes the shadows appear darker, the highlights whiter, and the image more three-dimensionalsteps that are ideal for translating the figure into color and into painted form. Dürer may have learned this technique in 149495 during his first trip to Italy, where drawing on prepared paper had become common by the second half of the fifteenth century. After an interruption of nearly ten years, the artist took up the technique again during his stay in the Netherlands in 152021. Almost entirely filling the page, the Head of a Young Woman, typical for these late studies, achieves a remarkable tangibility and clarity despite the relative economy of line.