Head of an Old Woman Looking to Lower Right (Saint Elizabeth)

Artist: Federico Barocci (Italian, Urbino ca. 1535–1612 Urbino)

Date: 1584–86

Medium: Brush and oil paint on paper

Dimensions: 15 3/8 x 10 13/16in. (39.1 x 27.5cm)

Classification: Drawings

Credit Line: Harry G. Sperling Fund, 1976

Accession Number: 1976.87.2


Barocci was among the pioneers of the oil sketch in Italy. This dazzling full-scale study in color was preparatory for the figure of Saint Elizabeth in his famous Visitation altarpiece in the Church of Santa Maria in Vallicella or "Chiesa Nuova," Rome, painted between 1584 and 1586. In the final work, the saint's head would become more idealized and serene of feature, and the technique of execution much less sketchy. Barocci was an indefatigable and stunningly fluent draftsman. For the Visitation altarpiece, he prepared also a great number of small-scale composition sketches and detailed figure studies based on the live model, as well as an imposing cartoon (full-scale drawing) in charcoal (now in the Uffizi, Florence inv. 1784 E). Together with an oil sketch for the head of Saint Joseph (New York, Private collection: see Di Giampaolo 2008) the Museum's sheet was a step of refinement in the design process beyond the cartoon.