Sketches of Heads (verso, left); Two Women (verso, right)

Sketches of Heads (verso, left); Two Women (verso, right)

c. 1770-1775

Part of a set. See all set records

John Brown

(British, 1752-1787)

Left: graphite; right: gray and black wash with point of brush and graphite

Sheet: 25.7 x 18.6 cm (10 1/8 x 7 5/16 in.)

Dudley P. Allen Fund 1969.28.b



A beguiling artist with a brief career, Brown is known for a small group of monochromatic drawings imbued with sinister overtones. At the age of 20, the Scottish artist traveled to Italy where he spent the next 12 years. This drawing exemplifies his Roman street scenes which often depict women dressed in spectacular, billowing costumes. Here, a coquette with bare ankles and plunging décolletage is surrounded by a crowd of vulgar types who leer, ogle, judge, and scorn. The reverse of the sketchbook sheet includes two independent drawings: a study of faces in fierce and intense expressions, and a pair of women wearing swirling gowns. One figure raises her hand in a mysterious gesture that casts a shadow on her throat resembling a claw. Whether the viewer is being beckoned or forewarned remains a mystery.

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