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Tête de jeune femme, le regard fixé sur la droite

Prints and Drawings
16th century

Grollemund Hélène

Very few drawings by the painter Bartholomaus Bruyn have come down to us. There are five in the Louvre collections, including this head of a woman, which is a preparatory study for the figure of a young woman on the retable in the church of St. Victor in Xanten, one of Bruyn's main works, executed between 1529 and 1534. Bruyn had settled in Cologne and was one of the most renowned portrait painters in the city in the first half of the sixteenth century.

A swiftly executed portrait

This drawing, which was previously though to be a portrait of a young man, depicts the head of a young woman, in three-quarters view, wearing a hat. It could be assumed from the work's small dimensions that this is a preparatory drawing, an assumption backed up by the artist's economy of means in delineating the most important features of the face. The strokes of black chalk are swift and do not become mired in detail. This is the hand of a painter who has already defined his composition clearly and is setting about arranging his figures. The drawing is a study for one of the young women behind St. Helen in the middle of the wing of the retable in the church of St. Victor at Xanten that depicts the departure of St. Helen. Bruyn used the same figure again, on a larger scale and with a different expression, in the scene of the discovery of the True Cross on the same retable. The person behind the face has been identified as Countess Emeza von Kappenberg, a former benefactress of the monastery. The drawing can be dated in all probability to between April 1529 and the start of 1534, the period of the retable's commission.

A common source

Three other sketched portraits in the Louvre collections are very closely linked to this portrait of the countess. One would probably be right in thinking that they are individual leaves from a sketchbook, as all of them are drawn on carefully prepared paper; and not only are both sides of the paper used, but the leaves, with their small, notebook-size dimensions, could be carried around easily. Homogeneous in style, the drawings on each of the four leaves exhibit the same characteristics: a very fine, light, and sparing line, many parallel strokes, and a pale grey stoke that never becomes heavy and the tone of which never changes. Only a few places are emphasized with firm outlines, such as part of the outline of the face or the eyelids. The homogeneity of style in these four drawings allows them to be dated to the the period duing which the Xanten retable was executed.

Bruyn and Van Cleve

This elegant and refined drawing was initially thought to be an Italian work. It was then attributed to Joos van Cleve before being recognized as the work of Bruyn. However, there are stylistic similarities between these two artists, and they have the same sensitivity in the sphere of portraiture. One could conclude from these affinities that the two painters worked at roughly the same time, in the same studio (that of Jan Joest in Kalkar), and that they remained in contact subsequently. Joos van Cleve may also have had the opportunity to paint portraits occasionally on commission in Cologne. These close ties are all the more relevant since a portrait thought to be of Joos van Cleve features next to a self-portrait of Bruyn on the wing of another retable painted by Bruyn that is almost contemporary with the Xanten retable and depicts a very similar subject (The Legend of St. Victor, dated 1529, now in the Wallraf-Richartz Museum in Cologne).


Krummacher H., "Bildniszeichnungen von Bartholomäus Bruyn d. A",
in Wallraf-Richatz Jahrbuch, vol. XXVI, 1964, pp. 59-72.
Scailliérez C., "Joos Van Cleve et Barthel Bruyn : quatre portraits dessinés par Barthel Bruyn et autrefois attribués à Joos Van Cleve", in Joos Van Cleve au Louvre, cat. exp. Paris, musée du Louvre, Éditions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, 1991, pp. 95-96.
Starcky Emmanuel, Inventaire général des dessins des Écoles du Nord : Écoles allemande, des anciens Pays-Bas, flamande, hollandaise et suisse XVe-XVIIIe siècles. Supplément aux inventaires publiés par Fritz Lugt et Louis Demonts, Paris, Éditions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, 1988, notice 19.
Starcky Emmanuel, in Dessins de Dürer et de la Renaissance germanique dans les collections publiques parisiennes, LXXXXVIIIe exposition
du Cabinet des dessins, cat. exp. Paris, musée du Louvre, Éditions
de la Réunion des musées nationaux, 1991-1992, notice 122.

Technical description

  • Bartholomaus BRUYN (Wesel or Cologne?, circa 1493-Cologne, 1555)

    Portrait of a Young Woman

    Between 1529 and 1534

  • Black chalk on grey/blue chain-laid paper

    H. 11.5 cm; W. 9.7 cm

  • Everhard Jabach collection; purchased for the Cabinet du Roi in 1671

    INV 18860

  • Prints and Drawings

    Due to their fragility, works on paper are not on permanent display in the museum.

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