Raphael, Head and shoulders of a young woman, a drawing

Italy, around AD 1502-3

This is a drawing from early in Raphael's career. It is drawn in silverpoint on warm white prepared paper. Raphael continued to use silverpoint long after he discovered pen and ink or red and black chalks. With silverpoint he needed to control the stylus carefully in order to draw the contours of his forms very clearly. The results are figures with precise lines and simple shading. He has used the fine end of the silverpoint stylus to suggest the delicate degrees of shading around the young woman's neck and left side of her face. Her hair is wispy and the veil a series of thin lines. A thicker and firmer stroke was used for the contours of her head, eyes, mouth, nose and neck to reinforce the line on which he had finally decided.

Although there is no halo, the veil on her head, her lowered eyes and the brooch at her breast suggest that this is a study for the figure of the Virgin Mary. In fact, this drawing was used for the head of the Virgin in a painting by Raphael, Madonna and Child with a Book (Norton Simon Foundation, Pasadena). It can be dated to around 1502-3 when Raphael was studying and working in his native Umbria in central Italy.

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More information


P. Pouncey and J. A. Gere, Italian drawings in the Depa-3 (London, The British Museum Press, 1962)

P. Joannides, The drawings of Raphael (Phaidon, 1983)

J.A Gere and N. Turner, Drawings by Raphael, from the, exh. cat. (London, The British Museum Press, 1983)


Height: 257.000 mm
Width: 190.000 mm

Museum number

PD 1895-9-15-611



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