This painting is closely related to two drawings connected with Rubens and his circle, which depict the same model wearing the same cap. The first is a black chalk study attributed to Rubens in full, in a private collection in Paris, formerly owner by Alfred Normand.1 It depicts the woman's head in profile, inclined at an angle towards the viewer, looking out to the left of the picture frame, as in the present work. The second drawing is executed in bodycolour, heightened with white over black chalk, attributed to Rubens' circle, in the British Museum, London (inv. no. 1897,0410.13).2 In that drawing, the model has a slightly softer expression, with her head tilted to a different position again.
In the second decade of the 16th century, the German Renaissance master Albrecht Dürer drew some of the first portraits of people from Africa from life, during a trip to the Netherlands. A century later, Rubens was the next great artist to execute some of the most sympathetic studies of black men and women in Europe, such as the 'Studies of a black man', today in the Royal Museum of Fine Arts of Belgium, Brussels (inv. no. 3176).3
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