Ideal head of a woman by Michelangelo, a black chalk drawing

Michelangelo, Head of a woman

Height: 28.700 cm
Width: 23.500 cm

PD 1895-9-15-493

Sophisticated studies of profile heads, such as this one, were created by Michelangelo as works of art in their own right. He probably made this highly polished drawing as a gift for a close friend. It shows an idealised female beauty who, in keeping with Michelangelo's ideal of beauty, has rather masculine features.

The intricate arrangement of the woman's plaited hair, which flows out of the side and back of her bizarrely strapped helmet, is reminiscent of earlier Florentine portraits. Michelangelo may have been influenced by works from the 1470s, including a painting of Cleopatra by Piero di Cosimo and Leonardo's exquisitely worked studies of heads, including his early metalpoint depiction of a leonine warrior.

The lower left corner of the sheet has been cut, perhaps because there was a desirable small study on the verso, and a small section at the top is also missing (this is shown in old copies such as one at Windsor).