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Antoine Watteau, Four studies of a young woman's head, a drawing


Height: 331.000 mm
Width: 238.000 mm

PD 1895-9-15-941

Prints and Drawings

    Antoine Watteau, Four studies of a young woman's head, a drawing

    France, about AD 1716-17

    These studies are drawn from a live model. Watteau has used his favourite combination of black, red and white chalks. This technique 'à trois crayons' became widely used by French artists of the eighteenth century. The upper two studies show her head from above and looking to the left. The lower two, again from above, are looking to the right. Three of the heads show the woman in profile, though at different angles. The head at lower left is the only one in which we see three-quarters of her face. Two ribbons in her hair gently fall across her head. He used the model again for other, similar drawings, but no painting related to this sheet is known.

    Interestingly, the red chalk was used in two ways and in two shades. A finer, lighter red chalk line defines the initial profile, her breast area and neckline. The other is a rustier, brown colour which, firmly applied, strengthens the final line of the woman's contour. Black chalk is used for the shaded areas of her neck and hair, and is often mixed with the red chalk. White chalk is gently rubbed onto the surface for highlights. With all of the chalks Watteau made stronger lines alongside thinner ones to provide texture. He then shaded in between these lines or rubbed the chalk with his fingers.

    Like most of Watteau's drawings from a live model, this sheet possesses a great sense of fluency, immediacy and freshness. Interestingly, a fifth head is visible underlying the hair of the woman at the lower right.

    J. Rowlands, Master drawings and watercolou (London, The British Museum Press, 1984)

    P. Hulton, Watteau: drawings in the Briti (London, The British Museum Press, 1980)

    M. Royalton-Kisch, H. Chapman and S. Coppel, Old Master drawings from the M, exh. cat. (London, The British Museum Press, 1996)

    P. Rosenberg and L.A. Prat, Antoine Watteau 1684-1721: cat (Milan, Leonardo Arte, 1996)

    M.M. Grasselli and P. Rosenberg, Watteau 1684-1721 (Washington DC, National Gallery of Art, 1984)


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