Art/ Collection/ Art Object

The Head of a Woman in Profile Facing Left

Follower of Leonardo da Vinci (Italian, Vinci 1452–1519 Amboise) (Giovanni Antonio Boltraffio?)
Metalpoint, highlighted with white gouache, on pale blue-gray prepared paper
Overall: 5 3/16 x 4 in. (13.2 x 10.2 cm)
Credit Line:
Frederick C. Hewitt Fund, 1917
Accession Number:
Not on view
The design of this greatly cropped female head (intended presumably to represent the Virgin) accords well with that of the controversial paiting of the "Madonna Litta" (State Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg), which a number of early critics thought to be by Leonardo himself, but which is presently considered to be mostly, if not entirely the work of a pupil or follower; a convincing attribution to Giovanni Antonio Boltraffio has been advanced by Pietro C. Marani, while David A. Brown has tended to ascribe it to Marco D'Oggiono, both men being documented in Leonardo's studio in 1490. Independently from the questions regarding the painting, the attribution of the fragmentary Metropolitan Museum sheet accords perfectly well with the production of Leonardo's pupils in Milan in the 1490s, and does not date from a later period as has been suggested; typical are the technique of metalpoint on blue-gray, the drawing style with uniform hatching, and the figural type. In the present author's opinion, the drawing is closest to the hand of Giovanni Antonio Boltraffio; while the study does not appear to exhibit Boltraffio's precise quality of execution, the perceived problem of quality may have to do with the abraded condition of the drawing surface. The sheet is of distinguished British provenance (Sir Peter Lely; the Earls of Pembroke; Pembroke sale, 1917), but was erroneously published and illustrated by Francesco Malaguzzi Valeri (La Corte di Lodovico Il Moro, Milan, 1917, vol. 3, p. 70, Fig. 55) as being in the "Galleria, Naples," causing relative confusion in the literature, and with an unconvincing attribution to Bernardino de'Conti. The Museum's drawing was remounted in 1980, or thereabouts, to reflect the fact that the head of the female figure was intended to be seen inclined toward the left, as in the "Madonna Litta" (pointed out by Carlo Pedretti in 1974; and David A. Brown, letter in Department files August 19, 1980). Early 20th century photographs show the drawing mounted as if the head were in an entirely upright vertical profile on the 17th century Pembroke mount; the Pembroke mounting itself accords with the placement of Sir Peter Lely's collector stamp. The remounting also redresses the fact that the right-handed metalpoint strokes of hatching are meant to course in a diagonal direction. (Jacob Bean, 15th and 16th Century Italian Drawings, 1982, pp. 121, no. 112, reproduced the drawing in the correct orientation, albeit with erroneous measurements). S. Arthur Strong seems to have been the first to reject the traditional attribution of this fine but damaged drawing to Leonardo himself, and rather tentatively proposed the names of Ambrogio de Predis and Boltraffio. Bean preferred a more general attribution to a right-handed Milanese follower of Leonardo.
Inscription: Annotated in pen and brown ink at lower border of old mount (now lost; reproduced in Strong 1900, no. 28), "L: da V: from vol. 2nd No 3" (indicating the drawing's place in the Pembroke albums of 1772).

Marking: Collector's stamps: The Metropolitan Museum of Art (Lugt 1943); Peter Lely (Lugt 2092)
Sir Peter Lely (Pieter van der Faes) (Dutch, British); possibly acquired by Thomas Herbert, 8th Earl of Pembroke (British); Henry Herbert, 10th Earl of Pembroke (British), by 1772; by descent to Reginald Herbert, 15th Earl of Pembroke (British); Sotheby's, London (British), July 5–6, 9–10, 1917, no. 468, as Leonardo
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Leonardo da Vinci and His Followers in the Collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art," March 5, 1981–June 7, 1981.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Leonardo da Vinci: Master Draftsman," January 22, 2003–March 30, 2003.

Sandford Arthur Strong Reproductions in Facsimile of Drawings by the Old Masters in the Collection of the Earl of Pembroke and Montgomery at Wilton House. London, 1900, part 3, no. 28, repr. (as Milanese School, possibly Ambrogio de Predis or Boltraffio).

Sotheby's, London, Earls of Pembroke Catalogue of superb prints, drawings, pictures, and armour from the historical collections at Wilton House, Salisbury, the property of the Rt. Hon. the Earl of Pembroke & Montgomery [July 5-6 & 9-10, 1917]. July 5-6, 9-10, 1917, p. 72, no. 468 (attributed to Leonardo).

Bryson Burroughs "Drawings from the Pembroke Collection." in The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, vol. 14, no. 6, New York, June 1919, p. 137.

Walter Mehring European Drawings from the Collections of The Metropolitan Museum of Art: A Portfolio of Collotype Reproductions [Vol. 1: Italian Drawings; Vol. 2: Flemish, Dutch, German, Spanish, French, and British drawings; Vol. 3: "New Series": Italian, Flemish, Dutch, German, Spanish, French, and British drawings]. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 3 vols., New York, 1942–44, also N.S., no. 3., cat. no. 11 (vol.1), fig. no. 11, ill.

"Some Italian Drawings in The Metropolitan Museum." Connoisseur. vol. 110, New York, January 1943, p. 149.

Collection Frits Lugt-Fondation Custodia Le Dessin italien dans les collections hollandaise. Exh. cat., Paris, Rotterdam, Haarlem. Paris, Rotterdam, Haarlem, 1962, no. 54 (as school of Leonardo).

Egbert Haverkamp-Begemann Drawings from the Clark Art Institute. 2 vols., New Haven, Conn. and London, 1964, pp. 10-11, no. 7, fig. 11, ill.

Carlo Pedretti "Leonardo da Vinci." in Revue de l'Art. vol. 25, 1974, pp. 26-28, 33 n. 21 (as Studio of Leonardo), ill.

Leonardo da Vinci and His Followers in the Collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art Exh. (no catalogue): March 5 - June 7. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1981.

Jacob Bean, Lawrence Turčić 15th and 16th Century Italian Drawings in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1982, pp. 121-22, no. 112.

James Byam Shaw The Italian Drawings of the Frits Lugt Collection. vol. 1, Paris, 1983, pp. 385-86, fig. 99, ill.

Maria Teresa Fiorio Giovanni Antonio Boltraffio: Un pittore milanese nel lume di Leonardo. Milan and Rome, 2000, p. 175, no. C15.

Carmen Bambach Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York, October 2002.

Carmen C. Bambach Leonardo da Vinci: Master Draftsman. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (January 22 - March 30, 2003). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Yale University Press , New Haven and London, 2003, pp. 165-66, fig. 84 (as Giovanni Antonio Boltraffio).

Françoise Viatte, Varena Forcione Leonard de Vinci. Dessins et manuscrits. Exh. cat.: Paris, Musée du Louvre, May 5 - July 14. Musée du Louvre, Paris, 2003, pp. 92, 209.

Luke Syson, Larry Keith Leonardo da Vinci: Painter at the Court of Milan. Exh. cat., The National Gallery, London. London, 2011, p. 86, under no. 44, fig. 190, ill.

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