Done in a single session, this work demonstrates Rubens’ forceful, but sensitive control of materials and his observational skills. He built up a stock of such characterful study heads, made to be copied in paintings. This example was used for elderly maids and saints. He often painted his models from different angles, and this panel, originally wider, likely held another view of her. At Rubens’ death, the panel was cut in half; this fragment was extended, to centre the head and make it saleable.