- Museum number
Portrait of a peasant woman from south Austria ; head and shoulders turned almost to front, her eyes slightly lowered, smiling, wearing a cloth wrapped around her head. 1505
Pen and brown ink and brown wash
- Production date
Height: 416 millimetres
Width: 281 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- This drawing is an unprecedentedly spontaneous study of a woman laughing and is generally regarded as one of Dürer's finest portraits. The brown wash background is characteristic of Dürer and it is not, as the Tietzes suggest, a later addition. The sheet is not, however, in good condition: the surface has suffered at some time before it entered the collection from the use of a knife to remove marks caused by foxing. The inscription refers to the Windisch Mark, the archaic name for the area around Gurk in Kärnten, southern Austria. This suggests that Dürer's journey to Italy in 1505 was made via Klagenfurt in southern Austria, where he could have produced this portrait as well as a further drawing of a Windisch woman, also dated 1505 (Museum Boymans-van Beuningen, Rotterdam, Strauss 1505/28). This route is in contrast to Dürer's earlier journey to Italy in 1494, when he travelled over the Brenner Pass to Venice. A close copy of this drawing on vellum (325 x 262mm.; fomerly Swiss private collection, see H.Musper, Pantheon, XXIX, 1971, pp.474ff; F. Winzinger, 'Zeitschrift für. Kunstwissenschaft', xxix, 1975, pp. 28ff repr.; M. Peter, 'Zeitschrift für Menschenkunde', Vienna and Stuttgart, xl, 1976, p. 211ff., repr.) and a related sheet of 'Head of a smiling woman' in Berlin (see H. Mielke in F.Anzelewsky and H. Mielke (eds) 'Staatliche Museeen Preussischer Kulturbesitz: Albrecht Dürer kritischer Katalog der Zeichnungen', Berlin, 1984, no. 133) by a follower of Dürer, attest to the fame of the present drawing during the sixteenth century.
The attribution of the above-mentioned copy on vellum has been the subject of much debate. First published in 1971 by Musper, it was considered an original drawing by Dürer, of which the BM sheet was an anonymous copy. After close analysis of both sheets, Winzinger published it in 1975 as an inferior copy of the British Museum drawing. Fedja Anzelewsky considered it to be an original version by Dürer based on the British Museum drawing, which he also considered authentic, and made in preparation for a painting that was either never executed or is now unknown (signed authentication, December 1989). In London, John Rowlands published his opinion in the1993 catalogue of the German drawings in the British Museum. He concurred with Winzinger, and strongly defended the primacy of the present drawing stating that the vellum sheet was a copy made after it. In his review of this catalogue, Tilman Falk pointed to the controversy surrounding the status of the two drawings and suggested that 'only a juxtaposition of both sheets in the original may bring a solution' ( T. Falk, 'Burlington Magazine', May, 1995, p.325). On 7 July, 2005 the vellum drawing was brought to the British Museum by its then owner (or representative) and a close comparison with the present drawing was made by Giulia Bartrum and Fritz Koreny. They concluded that John Rowlands was correct, and in their opinion the vellum drawing is a copy. The pen strokes, particularly in the worked areas of the headdress and around the eyes, are very precise, but are hesitantly executed and lack the fluency of Dürer's penwork. Individual curls and long strands of hair can be seen to be composed of three or four strokes joined together, whereas the BM sheet shows such long strands to be composed of one fluid movement of the pen, a charactereristic feature of Dürer's draughtsmanship. The vellum sheet was probably drawn during the later sixteenth-century period of the 'Dürer-Renaissance' when copies after and in the style of Dürer's work were made popular across Europe by artists such as Hans Hoffmann (c.1530-91/2). Koreny suggested that the drawing could be by one of the Wierix brothers, Jan, Jerome or Anton, who were famous printmakers in Antwerp during the last quarter of the sixteenth century.
Lit from J.Rowlands 'Drawings by German Artists and Artists from German-speaking regions of Europe in the Department of Prints and Drawings at the British Museum: the Fifteenth Century, and the Sixteenth Century by Artists born before 1530', London, BM Press, 1993, no. 164: "C. Ephrussi, Gazette, xvi, 1877, pp. 432ff, repr.; Ephrussi, pp. 111f.; Lippmann, part xxxix, p. 24, no. 408, repr.; Conway, p. 22, no. 354; Pauli, p. 14, no. 316; Nuremberg, Dürer, 1928, p. 110, no. 243;Tietze, ii, p. 21, no. 287, repr.; C. Dodgson, Burlington, lvi, 1930, pp. 237f., repr.; C. Dodgson, BMQ, v, 1930, pp. 9f., repr.; Flechsig, Dürer, ii, pp. 348-9; Winkler, Dürer, ii, p. 86, no. 375, repr.; Panofsky, ii, p. 113, no. 1108; Rupprich, i, p. 206, no. 28; Winkler, Leben, p. 190; Manchester, German Art, p. 48, no. 118; H.T. Musper, Pantheon, xxix, 1971, pp. 474ff., repr.; Rowlands, Dürer, p. 21, no. 117; BM Portrait Drawings, p. 10, no. 18; W. Stechow, Art Bulletin, lvi, 1974, p. 265; Strauss, ii, p. 890, no. 1505/27, repr.; F. Winzinger, Zeitschr.f. Kunstwiss., xxix, 1975, pp. 28ff., repr.; BM Dürer and Holbein, pp. 82-84, no. 55, repr.; Luijten and Meij, Rotterdam, p. 25, under no. 4, repr."
Further literature: G.Bartrum, 'Albecht Dürer and his Legacy', BM exh.cat. no. 96; M. Mende, 'Duerer A-Z; zeitgenössische Dürer-Variationen von Anderle bis Zimmerman', touring exh, Nuremberg, 1980, p. 128 (for a lithograph by Reiner Schwarz of 1974 inspired by this drawing); P. Marx in 'Orte der Sehnsucht: Mit Künstlern auf Reisen', exhibition catalogue edited by H. Arnhold, Münster, Westfälisches Landesmuseum, 2008, no. 5; E. Pokorny in 'Dürer Cranach Holbein. Die Entdeckung des Menschen: Das deutsche Porträt um 1500', exhibition catalogue edited by S. Haag et al, Vienna, 2011, no.47
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1928 April-Sept. Nuremberg, Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Dürer, no.243
1945-6, London, National Gallery, Works presented by the NACF, no.108
1961 Oct - Dec, Manchester City Art Gallery, German Art, no.118
1967/8 BM, Campbell Dodgson, (no cat.)
1971 BM, 'Dürer', no.117
1973 London, V&A, Saved for the Nation
1974 Jul-Dec, BM, 'Portrait Drawings', no.18
1984 BM, 'Master Drawings & Watercolours', no.47
1988 July-Oct, BM, 'Age of Dürer & Holbein', no.55
2002/3 Dec-March, BM, 'Dürer and his Legacy', no.96
2003/4 Oct-Jan, London, Hayward Gallery, Saved! ... NACF, no.39
2008/9 Sep-Jan, Münster, Landesmuseum, Orte der Sehnsucht, no.5
2011 May-Sep, Vienna, Kunsthistorisches.Museum, Dürer-Cranach-Holbein
EMBARGOED UNTIL 2020
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- See reports from Dodgson dated 15 and 25 March 1930. Dodgson himself gave £2000, and the NACF another £2,000, as well as the commission of £250 to Houthakker, the intermediary Dutch dealer. The latter report reveals that Dodgson had himself bid £2,200 at the 1927 sale for the drawing, but had been outbid.
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number