Head of a Boy

Luca Signorelli, Italian (active central Italy), first documented 1470, died 1523

Made in Italy, Europe

c. 1492-1493

Oil on panel

10 9/16 x 8 1/16 inches (26.8 x 20.5 cm)

Curatorial Department:
European Painting

* Gallery 212, European Art 1100-1500, second floor

Accession Number:
Cat. 138

Credit Line:
John G. Johnson Collection, 1917

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This is a rare surviving example of an informal working study by a Renaissance master. Executed on a hastily prepared scrap of irregularly shaped wood, it was quickly painted and in some parts, like the hair on the right, left unfinished. Paint marks on the back indicate that it was picked up before the paint dried. Because this study was made for the artist's own use, it was not framed; instead, it was simply hung, as here, by a cord passed through holes near the top edge.

The artist probably asked a studio apprentice to pose for this penetrating study of a figure deep in thought. The sketch may have been used as a model for a figure in a larger painting.

* Works in the collection are moved off view for many different reasons. Although gallery locations on the website are updated regularly, there is no guarantee that this object will be on display on the day of your visit.