Collection online


  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Description

    Head of a young woman, her eyes lowered Metalpoint (probably silverpoint), heightened with white, on grey-green prepared paper

  • Producer name

  • School/style

  • Date

    • 1490-1500
  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 242 millimetres
    • Width: 160 millimetres
  • Curator's comments

    The head is based on that of the Madonna in Leonardo's 'Virgin and the Rocks' in the National Gallery, London. This painting was the model for a number of works by Leonardo's Milanese followers: such as the 'Virgin and Child' in the Kunsthaus, Zurich (W. Suida, 'Leonardo und sein Kreis', Munich, 1929, fig. 54) where the head of the Madonna, as Popham and Pouncey observed, is closer to the BM drawing than Leonardo's original. Kenneth Clark suggested that the present drawing is by the same hand as a drawing in Windsor (12510), and possibly the work of a Milanese artist working in Florence. More persuasive is Binaghi and Bora's attribution of the BM drawing to the anonymous Milanese painter, the Master of the Pala Sforzesca, as it is close in handling to a drawing in the same medium in the BM (1861,0810.1; Popham and Pouncey 292). Moreover, the Virgin's head in the Master of the Pala Sforzesca's painting of the 'Madonna and Child' in Berlin (illustrated in G. Bora et al, 'The Legacy of Leonardo, Painters in Lombardy', Milan, 1998, fig. 59, p. 183) is close to that in the BM drawing. Whether the drawing is preparatory for the painting is difficult to determine in view of their mutual dependence on Leonardo.

    A less accomplished study of a similar head is in Bayonne (152; Bean, 1960, no. 54)
    H.C. Lit.: J.C. Robinson, 'Descriptive Catalogue of Drawings by the Old Masters, forming the Collection of John Malcolm of Poltalloch, Esq.', London, 1876, no. 39 (as Leonardo da Vinci); C. Löser, 'I disegni italiani della raccolta Malcolm', "Archivio Storico dell'Arte", II-III, 1897, p.356 (as Boltraffio);G. Carotti, 'R. Galleria di Brera in Milano. Giovanni Antonio Boltraffio (a proposito dell'acquisto della tavola dei due divoti), "Le Gallerie nazionali italiane. Notizie e documenti", IV, Rome, 1899, pp. 327 and 330 (as Boltraffio); A.E. Popham and P. Pouncey, 'Italian drawings in the BM, the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries', London, 1950, I, no. 128 (with previous literature), II, pl. CXVII (as Follower of Leonardo); J. Bean, 'Bayonne, Musée Bonnat: les dessins italiens de la collection Bonnat', Paris, 1960, under no. 54; K. Clark and C. Pedretti, 'The Drawings of Leonardo da Vinci in the Collection of Her Majesty the Queen at Windsor Castle' (2nd revised edition), London, 1968, I, under no. 12510, p. 90; M.T. Binaghi, 'Il ciclo di Annone Brianza' in G. Romano, M.T. Binaghi and D. Collura, 'Il Maestro della Pala Sforzesca', "Quaderni de Brera", 4, 1978, p. 28, fig. 13; G. Bora, 'Per un catalogo dei disegni dei leonardeschi lombardi', "Raccolta Vinciana", XXII, 1987, p. 162, n.23 (as Master of the Pala Sforzesca); M.T. Fiorio, 'Giovanni Antonio Boltraffio, un pittore milanese nel lume di Leonardo', Milan, 2000, no. D38 (as Master of the Pala Sforzesca); P.C. Marani, 'Leonardo's Drawings in Milan and their influence on the graphic work of Milanese artists, in exhib. cat., New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 'Leonardo da Vinci Master Draftsman', 2003, p. 186, n. 23 (as Master of the Pala Sforzesca); D.A. Brown, Leonardo da Vinci, art and devotion in the Madonnas of his Pupils', Milan, 2003, p. 41, fig. 27

    Popham & Pouncey 1950
    The head appears to be based on that of the Madonna in the 'Virgin of the Rocks' in the National Gallery and is even nearer to the head of the Madonna in the 'Virgin and Child' in the Kunsthaus at Zürich (Suida, fig. 54), which bears a signature read by Suida as "FR-LIA" [See Popham & Pouncey 1950, cat. no. 128] and supposed by him to be that of Ferrando de Llanos. Clark, who considers this drawing to be by the same hand as Windsor no. 12510, thinks that the artist may be a Milanese pupil, "perhaps working in Florence, as it [the Windsor drawing] is rather Botticellian in movement".

    Literature: JCR 39; B.M. Guide, 1895, no. 40; Clark, Windsor, under no. 12510.


  • Bibliography

    • Popham & Pouncey 1950 128 bibliographic details
    • JCR 39 bibliographic details
    • Sell et al 2015 53 bibliographic details
  • Location

    Not on display (Italian Roy XVc)

  • Exhibition history

    2011-12 Nov-Feb, London, National Gallery, Leonardo da Vinci 2015 May-Jul, Washington, National Gallery of Art, 'Drawing in Silver and Gold'
    2015 10 Sep-6 Dec, London, British Museum, 'Drawing in Silver and Gold'

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date


  • Department

    Prints & Drawings

  • Registration number


Head of a young woman, her eyes lowered Metalpoint, on grey-green prepared paper  recto  recto

Head of a young woman, her eyes lowered Metalpoint, on grey-green prepared paper recto recto

Image description



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