Hendrick Goltzius

Characterized by a strong sense of immediacy, this drawing was likely based on a life study. Goltzius outlined the contours of the figure’s headdress and face using swift, sharp strokes of red chalk, and skillfully described the soft surface of the skin by rubbing powdery red pigment with a finger or stump. Despite the drawing’s compelling naturalism, the identity of the subject remains unclear. While scholars have traditionally referred to the figure as an older woman, the thick neck with the Adam’s apple protruding right below the chin, the unruly short hair playfully sticking out from underneath the headdress, and the overall lack of idealization suggest that the subject may be a male figure in a chaperon, a type of headwear popular in the Middle Ages.

Hendrick Goltzius
Netherlandish, 1558–1617
Head Study, ca. 1605–10
Red chalk, incised
Kupferstich-Kabinett, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, INV. NO. C 897.
© Kupferstich-Kabinett, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden
Photo: Herbert Boswank