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Master of the Female Half-Lengths, A Female Head

Key facts
Full title A Female Head
Artist Master of the Female Half-Lengths
Artist dates active second quarter of the 16th century
Date made about 1540
Medium and support Oil on oak
Dimensions 26.3 × 18.7 cm
Acquisition credit Presented by Queen Victoria at the Prince Consort's wish, 1863
Inventory number NG721
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
A Female Head
Master of the Female Half-Lengths

A young woman with brown hair and plucked eyebrows gazes modestly downward. Her hairstyle is Italianate: her plaits are wound around the top of her head and are entwined with a semi-transparent scarf that falls across her right shoulder. She wears a semi-transparent ruched chemise and a blue overdress trimmed with brown fur. Behind her is a green textile, with patterns in pale yellow, probably intended to represent threads of gold.

She is possibly the Virgin Mary: she very closely resembles the Virgin in the Adoration of the Kings (Gemäldegalerie, Berlin), also attributed to the Master of the Female Half-Lengths, and in his The Rest on the Flight into Egypt, also in our collection.

Very large numbers of paintings are attributed to the Master, but this one was probably by the artist himself. He had some rather idiosyncratic painting techniques. Here, for example, he blotted the paint layers in order to depict the semi-transparent fabric of the veil.

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