Head of a Woman, ca. 1405–10
Watercolor on parchment laid down on secondary support; 3 5/8 x 2 3/4 in. (9.1 x 7 cm)
Purchase, several members of The Chairman's Council and Jean A. Bonna Gifts, 2010 (2010.119)
The refinement of the International Gothic Style and the flowering of the visual arts in Prague at the court of Emperor Charles IV and his successors are both apparent in this sheet, which is among the few drawings of this period to have survived. Most of these drawings are likely to have once been part of pattern books, which artists kept in their workshops to provide them with models for paintings and illuminations. This drawing, one of the most outstanding of its kind and apparently unique in its use of color, probably served as a model for representations of the Virgin. Its style has been linked to a sheet (now in the Cleveland Museum of Art) from the so-called Seitenstetten Antiphonary, made for a Bohemian monastery about 1405, and it can be attributed to an artist active in the workshop that produced that manuscript. Its importance as a relatively precisely attributed early fifteenth-century drawing is matched by its exquisite beauty.