Portrait of a Woman (Martha Hess)

A work made of charcoal and black chalk, with stumping, heightened with white chalk and touches of red-orange pastel, on grayish-tan laid paper.
CC0 Public Domain Designation

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  • A work made of charcoal and black chalk, with stumping, heightened with white chalk and touches of red-orange pastel, on grayish-tan laid paper.

Date:

1781

Artist:

Henry Fuseli
Swiss, active in England, 1741-1825

About this artwork

On a visit to Zurich, Switzerland, in 1778–79, Fuseli made several portraits of Martha Hess, a niece of the artist’s friend Johann Kaspar Lavater. Lavater eventually incorporated prints after Fuseli’s drawings of Martha and her sister into his famous Essays on Physiognomy (published 1789).
Martha was described as ethereal and inclined toward religious fanaticism, both features consistent with how Fuseli presents her. Brilliantly lit, her ecstatic face appears to be emerging from darkness. Fuseli drew almost exclusively with his left hand, as evidenced here by his hatching (closely spaced parallel lines used for shading), which moves from upper left to lower right.

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Prints and Drawings

Artist

Henry Fuseli

Title

Portrait of a Woman (Martha Hess)

Origin

England

Date

1781

Medium

Charcoal and black chalk, with stumping, heightened with white chalk and touches of red-orange pastel, on grayish-tan laid paper

Inscriptions

Inscribed recto lower left, in graphite: “Sept. 10, 81”

Dimensions

442 × 325 mm

Credit Line

Clarence Buckingham Collection

Reference Number

1971.310

Extended information about this artwork

Object information is a work in progress and may be updated as new research findings emerge. To help improve this record, please email .

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