The Head of a Woman in Profile Facing Left

Artist: Follower of Leonardo da Vinci (Italian, Vinci 1452–1519 Amboise) (Giovanni Antonio Boltraffio?)

Date: 1490–1500

Medium: Metalpoint, highlighted with white gouache, on pale blue-gray prepared paper

Dimensions: Overall: 5 3/16 x 4 in. (13.2 x 10.2 cm)

Classification: Drawings

Credit Line: Frederick C. Hewitt Fund, 1917

Accession Number: 19.76.3


The art historian Carlo Pedretti seems to have been the first to point out that this head was probably intended to be seen inclined toward the left, instead of a vertical profile, as it was mounted in the seventeenth century judging from the position of Lely's collector's mark. The slant of the right-handed metalpoint strokes and the placement of the shoulder line at left give weight to the suggestion. It is reproduced here at this angle.
S. Arthur Strong seems to have been the first to reject the traditional attribution of this fine but damaged drawing to Leonardo himself; he rather tentatively proposed the names of Ambrogio de Predis and Boltraffio. The drawing is very probably the work of some talented (right-handed) Milanese follower of Leonardo, but present-day knowledge of this school is so incomplete that it is not possible to assign the sheet with certainty to an individual artist in this milieu.