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Head of a Woman in a Chequered Shawl and Turban
  • Date: 1789
  • Object Type: Miniature
  • Medium: Painted on ivory
  • Image size: 6.4 x 5.1 cm
  • Frame size: 10 x 6.8 cm
  • Inv: M303
  • Location: Boudoir Cabinet
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Further Reading
  • Sicardi’s ‘Head of a Woman’ is a good example of the long-lasting fashion for female study heads, often with strongly emotional expressions and in different stages of erotic undress. The phenomenon originated in paintings by Jean-Baptiste Greuze in the 1760s and after a certain delay reached miniature painting, in works by Sicardi, Hall and others. An earlier example by Sicardi, signed and dated 1780, is also in the Wallace Collection (M301). Sicardi himself owned a painting by Greuze if ‘Une Jeune fille. Le sign découvert [A young woman with her breast exposed]’. The ‘Head of a Woman’ in a Chequered Shawl and Turban demonstrates that the fashion for Greuze’s expressive heads continued without significant interruption during the Revolution and after.

    The shawl and turban of the woman have long been assumed to be in a tartan pattern. Aileen Ribeiro, however, has recently pointed out that this type of chequer pattern was highly fashionable in Paris in the late 1790s and does not refer to Scottish dress. While the date of the signature could also be read as ‘1789’, Ribeiro’s observation confirms the traditional dating to 1799.

    A reference to another version illustrated by Lespinasse in 1929 is based on an error. However, an unsigned version in a private collection might be autograph.