Rogier van der Weyden, Portrait of a Young Woman, a drawing

Flanders, around AD 1430

Drawn in silverpoint on prepared paper coloured cream, this is one of the few surviving drawings by van der Weyden (around 1399-1464). The sitter is an unknown young woman who wears a cloth head-dress pinned to her head. The outline of her right hand which was perhaps to hold a flower is visible at the bottom of the sheet. It is presumably a preliminary study for a lost painted portrait. She is in three-quarter view, the typical pose of many contemporary portraits, (as also depictions of the Madonna), and she was probably placed against a plain background. She is probably not of high social class as her costume is not that of a lady of high rank.

The shading in silverpoint is sophisticated. This medium is difficult to erase and requires great skill; van der Weyden has used cross-hatching to suggest the shadow cast by the head-dress. The edges are crisp and clean, yet the modelling of the face is gentle and tender.

Van der Weyden was the pre-eminent painter in Flanders in the mid-fifteenth century. He had a large workshop and produced a number of masterpieces of religious subjects, notably his Descent from the Cross (Prado, Madrid). He was active at the court of Burgundy and was also patronized by the Flemish merchant classes.

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More information

Bibliography

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

L. Campbell, Van der Weyden (Oresko Books, 1979)

M. Davies, Rogier Van der Weyden (Phaidon, 1972)

L. Campbell, Renaissance portraits: Europea (New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 1990)

Dimensions

Height: 166.000 mm
Width: 116.000 mm

Museum number

PD 1874-8-8-2266

PDO11609

Location

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