Guido Reni was one of the most influential 17th-century Italian painters. His renderings of mythological and religious subjects are celebrated for their compositional and figural grace. Reni prepared intensely before painting his narrative works, creating numerous studies from models, including chalk drawings, such as this head of a young woman. According to one biographer, Reni boasted about being able to “paint heads with their eyes uplifted a hundred different ways” to portray ecstasy or divine inspiration. Here, the artist’s loose, spontaneous manner animates the three-dimensionality of the woman’s head. Though her identity is not confirmed, she has a resemblance to painted portrayals by Reni of the penitent Saint Mary Magdalene with eyes lifted, tearful, and pleading.

Cataloguing data may change with further research.

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Guido Reni, Italian (Bolognese), 1575–1642
Head of a Young Woman Looking Upward
c. 1609
Black and red chalk with white chalk on brown laid paper
14 7/8 x 10 5/8 in. (37.8 x 27 cm)
Credit Line

Museum purchase funded by the Brown Foundation Accessions Endowment Fund

Current Location
Not on view
Accession Number
Drawings, Pastels & Watercolors

[William H. Schab Gallery, New York, in 1981]; Private collection; [Sotheby’s, New York, January 13, 1988, lot 129]; [P. & D. Colnaghi, London, in 1993]; Private collection, Spain, until 2010; [Stephen Ongpin Fine Art, London, by 2010-2011]; purchased by MFAH, 2011.