Salvator Rosa (Naples 1615–1673 Rome)
Head of a Woman (Lucrezia Paolini), 1640s
Black, red, and white chalk with blue, yellow, pink, and white pastel on beige laid paper
12 15/16 × 9 7/16 in. (328 × 239 mm)
Promised Gift from the Collection of Elizabeth and Jean-Marie Eveillard
Photo Joseph Coscia Jr.
Salvator Rosa led a turbulent life between Naples, Florence, and Rome, where he was closely acquainted with literary and theater figures. Rosa produced a corpus of drawings that are eclectic in style and eccentric in subject matter. This drawing is one of just a dozen head studies in pastel and the only one in the group to portray a woman. As the sitter—who may be Lucrezia Paolini (ca. 1620–1697), the artist’s partner for most of his life—is not wearing everyday clothes, the drawing may have been produced in the context of the Florentine Accademia dei Percossi (Academy of the Stricken), something of a combination of an artist’s studio and a salon of poets, playwrights, and painters, for whose members Rosa produced similar heads in pastel before his move to Rome in 1649.
Curator's Personal Reflection
Speaker: Giulio Dalvit, Assistant Curator of Sculpture
We know that this sheet rested for centuries in an album of drawings. Imagine this young woman suddenly appearing to you as you’re leafing through the pages of an album. Her eyes finally meeting yours—the viewer’s—after months of darkness. She is addressing you. But what is she trying to communicate? Her eyes are not the same shape, and the colors are undefinable. And there is something suspended in the way she looks at us, her lips smiling but not quite. It is an expression that requires untangling, like the knots in her bonnet and her scarf. It is said that Salvator Rosa used his partner as a model for this drawing: you can see it all—the boredom, the intimacy, the charm of posing for the person you love.