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.
Inscription: Inscribed: (upper left) 27; (lower right) 89; [on the lined paper support, a few Italian and Flemish words can be read]
Princes of Liechtenstein, Castle Feldsberg, Feldsberg, Czech Republic (by 1712?–1944; inv., 1780, no. 1584) and Vaduz (1944–51); [Van Diemen-Lilienfeld Galleries, New York, until 1957]; Mrs. Ralph J. Hines, New York (1957)
Washington. National Gallery of Art. "Anthony van Dyck," November 11, 1990–February 24, 1991, no. 95.
New York. Frick Collection. "Van Dyck: The Anatomy of Portraiture," March 2–June 5, 2016, no. 5.
Gustav Wilhelm. Letter to Margaretta Salinger. September 26, 1973, describes markings on the front and back of the picture, identifying the seal in the lower-right corner as the Liechtenstein coat of arms of 1733; gives provenance information.
John Rupert Martin and Gail Feigenbaum. Van Dyck as Religious Artist. Exh. cat., Art Museum, Princeton University. Princeton, 1979, p. 54, fig. 11, notes that it is sometimes incorrectly called a Magdalen.
Erik Larsen. L'opera completa di Van Dyck. Milan, 1980, vol. 1, pp. 86–87, no. 22, ill., dates it about 1614–15.
Margaret Roland. Letter to Walter Liedtke. October 18, 1981, dates it to the first Antwerp period.
Christopher Norris. Letter to Walter Liedtke. June 2, 1982, observes similarities with the "Lamentation" in Munich; believes the handwriting on the paper is closer to Van Dyck's than to Rubens's.
Walter A. Liedtke. Flemish Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1984, vol. 1, pp. 77–79; vol. 2, pl. 32, calls it "characteristic of the first years of Van Dyck's maturity"; suggests that the writing on the paper might be Rubens's, consistent with a dating of the sketch to the years in which Van Dyck worked in his shop.
Walter A. Liedtke. "Anthony van Dyck." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 42 (Winter 1984/85), pp. 16, 18, 32, fig. 13 (color).
Walter A. Liedtke. "Flemish Paintings in the Metropolitan Museum—II: Van Dyck, Jordaens, Brouwer, and Others." Tableau 6 (February 15, 1984), pp. 30–31, 33 n. 15.
Erik Larsen. The Paintings of Anthony van Dyck. Freren, Germany, 1988, vol. 1, p. 436, 466, fig. 475; vol. 2, p. 21, no. 28, places it among works of about 1614–15.
Arthur K. Wheelock Jr. inAnthony van Dyck. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Art. Washington, 1990, p. 226.
Julius S. Held inAnthony van Dyck. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Art. Washington, 1990, pp. 332, 347–48, no. 95, ill. (color), dates it about 1630 and calls it a study for Van Dyck's "Mystic Marriage of Saint Catherine" (Royal Collection, London).
Michael Jaffé. "Washington: Van Dyck at the National Gallery of Art." Burlington Magazine 133 (February 1991), p. 144, rejects Held's association of the sketch with the "Mystic Marriage of Saint Catherine" (Royal Collection, London) [see Ref. Held 1990], dating it not later than about 1625.
Introduction by Walter A. Liedtke inFlemish Paintings in America: A Survey of Early Netherlandish and Flemish Paintings in the Public Collections of North America. Antwerp, 1992, p. 332, no. 212, ill.
Nancy T. Minty. In the Eye of the Beholder: Northern Baroque Paintings from the Collection of Henry H. Weldon. Exh. cat., New Orleans Museum of Art. New Orleans, 1997, p. 41, under no. 16.
Andrea Kirsh and Rustin S. Levenson. Seeing Through Paintings: Physical Examination in Art Historical Studies. New Haven, 2000, pp. 65, 67, fig. 71.
Walter Liedtke. "Toward a New Edition of Flemish Paintings in the Metropolitan Museum of Art." Munuscula Amicorum: Contributions on Rubens and His Colleagues in Honour of Hans Vlieghe. Ed. Katlijne van der Stighelen. Vol. 2, Turnhout, Belgium, 2006, p. 678 n. 25.
Stijn Alsteens in Stijn Alsteens and Adam Eaker. Van Dyck: The Anatomy of Portraiture. Exh. cat., Frick Collection. New York, 2016, pp. 58, 61–62, 64–66, 73, no. 5, ill. (color).
Adam Eaker in Stijn Alsteens and Adam Eaker. Van Dyck: The Anatomy of Portraiture. Exh. cat., Frick Collection. New York, 2016, p. 55.
Van Dyck depicted a very similar young woman in two other oil sketches on paper; one in the Solomon collection, Los Angeles; the other in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna. In each case, the paper was mounted on wood, presumably at an early date. It is not certain, however, that the same model was employed; the sketches may simply conform to a type that Van Dyck modified according to need on different occasions. The style of the sketches and their relationship to finished pictures indicate that they are autograph works by Van Dyck dating from about 1618, when he was working in Rubens's studio, assisting in the execution of large pictures. Rubens had painted similar study heads, which were often intended as models to be followed by assistants.