Studies of Women

On a diplomatic mission to Spain in 1628, Peter Paul Rubens visited the royal palace in Madrid. Admiring three paintings by Titian that hung in adjacent rooms, he quickly sketched some of the profiles of various women he saw portrayed, intermingling from the various works on a single sheet. Rubens focused on the angle and expression on each head, as well as the elaborately braided hairstyle and jewelry. By liberally layering in white chalk, the artist created a sensuous play of light over the hair. Smudgy black chalk strokes give volume to another woman's body and describe the muscular ripples on her arms. Rubens's chalk strokes ranged from the stronger, more powerful form of the nude body to the delicate strokes where the hair touches the back of one figure's neck. He very effectively used the combination of red, black, and white chalk, a technique known by the French term aux troix crayons, coined in the 1700s.

Black, red, and white chalk, lower right corner replaced (1628)

by Peter Paul Rubens (Flemish, 1577-1640)

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