Head of an Old Woman

Orazio Borgianni Italian

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 639

Head studies such as this, in which the artist eschewed formal portraiture in favor of exploring character and expression, are some of the most accessible and seemingly modern paintings of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. In this striking depiction of an old woman lit by a strong shaft of light, Borgianni has offered a meditation on aging and mortality. Borgianni was one of the most distinctive followers of Caravaggio, who was known for the kinds of naturalism and dramatic light effects seen here.

Head of an Old Woman, Orazio Borgianni (Italian, Rome 1578–1616 Rome), Oil on canvas

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