This double sided, rare drawing, depicts studies of the head of a young boy on both the recto
of the sheet. On the recto
the clearly outlined face in pen and ink is enriched by the brown wash and by a skilfully applied white heightening, while the verso
is solely executed in pen and ink. The style of these heads is reminiscent of the work of Sandro Botticelli, whose graphic style is characterised by clarity of form and firmness of line, traits so intrinsic to the Florentine tradition. On the recto
the subtle application of the white heightening, with broad strokes, is in keeping with the studies executed in the bottega
of Sandro Botticelli and Filippino Lippi, which are often on pages that once formed part of a sketchbook. The use of the model book became an invaluable tool for artists and apprentices and provided them with ample material to use in their painted works. These graphic archives were a vital part of their training, allowing artists to copy and use these designs when necessary, and the books were a practical way of ensuring the artist had a reliable instruction manual for many of the poses they would use in their paintings. They were a compendium of stock examples ready to be transferred to paintings. Great importance was given to light in these studies as we can see on the recto
of the present sheet, where the shadows are first emphasized by the application of a light brown wash, contrasting with the parallel hatching and broad application of the white heightening employed with the point of the brush.
The draughtsman of this sheet, although difficult to identify, was probably active in a leading Florentine workshop, probably around 1470-1480, although increasingly, at that time, there was a shift away from the traditional use of the pattern book to a more inventive and personal approach which would become representative of the individualism of the Renaissance artist.
The figure of the standing Madonna on the verso must be after an earlier prototype. One can comprehend the old attribution to Simone Martini, written in pen and ink on the verso of the present drawing, and although it does not relate directly to any surviving works by the Sienese artist, it recalls many of his elegant figures.