Old Woman’s Head in Profile

Bartolomeo Passerotti

Bologna, 1529 – 1592


Pen and brown ink on white paper, 474 x 357mm

This sheet is one of the best examples of Bartolomeo Passerotti’s drawings, probably entering the Estense collections in Alessandro d’Este’s time (1599 - 1624). Head studies were a common subject in the ducal collection, as indicated by the antique Estense inventories. They are proof of the Dukes’ highly refined taste which coincided especially with Alessandro d’Este’s interests: as Spaccini recalls, the Duke would make his own copies of Bartolomeo Passerotti’s famous ‘Heads in pen’. The drawing is executed in quick, precise, parallel and cross-hatched pen lines, anticipating Annibale Carracci’s more famous ‘caricatures’ and serving as evidence for Passerotti’s pursuit of the ugly and grotesque, typical of his early genre work datable to the 1580s.