Study Head of a Young Woman

Artist: Anthony van Dyck (Flemish, Antwerp 1599–1641 London)

Date: ca. 1618–20

Medium: Oil on paper, laid down on wood

Dimensions: 22 1/4 x 16 3/8 in. (56.5 x 41.6 cm)

Classification: Pastels & Oil Sketches on Paper

Credit Line: Gift of Mrs. Ralph J. Hines, 1957

Accession Number: 57.37


Study heads of this type were painted by Van Dyck using live models, whose features were then repeated in finished pictures, usually of religious subjects. Indeed, the present figure served as the prototype for a likeness of the Virgin in a depiction of the Holy Family. The iconography of the melancholy young woman with long hair streaming down her shoulders also suits images of Mary Magdalen; intriguingly, an early biographer tells us that Van Dyck once depicted his sister Susanna in that guise.