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Old Woman tearing at her Hair
Circle of Massys, Jan
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Circle of Massys, Jan

Antwerp (Belgium), 1509 - Antwerp (Belgium), 1575

See author's file

Old Woman tearing at her Hair

After 1553. Oil on oak panel.
Not on display

On the reverse of this portrait is an old inscription in ink reading ‘MAESTRO QUINTIN’. Bosque attributed it to that artist in his catalogue, although emphasising the difference of technique between this work and that used for the old woman in The Temptations of Saint Anthony by Joachim Patinir and Quinten Massys (Madrid, Museo del Prado, P-1615), painted prior to 1522. He suggests that the present painting is close to works by Massys’ son Jan Massys. The painting’s poor physical state, with significant losses particularly in the face, have made some authors reluctant to attribute it to Quentin Massys.The painting is not a portrait, but rather reflects the artist’s interest in caricature influenced by Leonardo. It depicts an old woman, slightly more than half-length, who represents Fury or Envy, or possibly Folly, following ErasmusThe Praise of Folly. The is also the case with the artist’s A grotesque old Woman in London (National Gallery) who is characterised by a foolish pride, blind to the ravages of time on her ancient body, which she displays in order to inspire love. In the present work the woman is shown with bare shoulders but not in the costly but out-of-date dress and headdress of the London painting and the one seen in The Temptations of Saint Anthony in the Prado. The figure is located in the foreground in a foreshortened position against a dark background.This arrangement confronts her with the spectator to whom she directs her vacant gaze, her mouth almost tracing a smile.The dynamic pose, expressive facial gesture and movement of the hands as she pulls her hair also contribute to a sense of immediacy and communication with the viewer. The early history of this painting is unknown. It was traditionally thought to have belonged to the Marquis of Leganés in the 17th-century, but in fact this may not be the case. In the 18thcentury it was in the collection of the Counts of Altamira. Although it does not appear in the 1753 inventory, the small number 470 at the bottom in white flanked by two crosses is comparable to the numbering on other works from that collection. The Board of Trustees of the Museo del Prado acquired the painting in Madrid from Antonio Muñoz Román on 14 October 1964. (Silva Maroto P., El Retrato del Renacimiento, Madrid: Museo Nacional del Prado, 2008, pp. 493).

Technical data

Inventory number
Circle of Massys, Jan
Old Woman tearing at her Hair
After 1553
Oak panel
Height: 55 cm; Width: 40 cm
I Marquess of Leganés Collection; collection of the Counts of Altamira; acquisition from Antonio Muñoz Román, Sevilla, 1964.

Bibliography +

Pérez Sánchez, Alfonso Emilio, Diez años de adquisiciones para el Museo del Prado, Goya: Revista de Arte, 90, 1969, pp. 364.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Principales adquisiciones de los últimos diez años: 1958-1968, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1969.

Salas, Xavier de, Museo del Prado. Catálogo de las pinturas, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1972, pp. 883-884.

Bosque, A.De, Quentin Metsys, Arcade, Bruselas, 1975, pp. 249-250.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Catálogo de las pinturas, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1985, pp. 397.

Mateo Gómez, Isabel, Precisión iconográfica sobre las tentaciones de San Antonio de Patinir y Metsys, Boletín del Museo del Prado, VI, 1985, pp. 81.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Museo del Prado. Inventario general de pinturas (III). Nuevas Adquisiciones. Museo Iconográfico. Tapices., Museo del Prado, Espasa Calpe, Madrid, 1996, pp. nº1871.

Silva Maroto, Pilar, Pintura flamenca de los siglos XV y XVI: guía, Museo del Prado, Aldeasa, Madrid, 2001, pp. 196.

Erasmo en España: la recepción del Humanismo en el primer re, Sociedad Estatal para la Acción Cultural Exterior, Madrid, 2002, pp. 257.

López Fanjul, M. Pérez Preciado, J. J., Los números y marcas de colección en los cuadros del Museo del Prado, Boletín del Museo del Prado, XXIII, 2005, pp. 84-110.

Museo Nacional del Prado, El retrato del Renacimiento, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2008, pp. 308/309.

Arte, genio, follia : il giorno e la notte dell' artista, Mazzotta, 2009.

Colloque pour l ' étude du dessin sous-jacent et de la techn..., The quest for the original. Silva Maroto,P. Le dessin sous-jacent de l´Ecce Homo et de la vieille femme s´arrachant les cheveux de Quentin Metsys, Peeters, 2009, pp. 48-54.

Posada Kubissa, Teresa, Cuadros de Quinten Massys y Jan Massys en el Museo del Prado. Actualización de las atribuciones, Boletín del Museo del Prado, XXXII, 2014, pp. 96-109 [106-107 f.13, f.14].

Other inventories +

Inv. Nuevas Adquisiciones (iniciado en 1856). Núm. 1871.
Autor, Quintin de Massy (atribuida) / 1871. Asunto, "Vieja mesándose los cabellos" / Tabla 55 x 40 cms / Nº del catalogo 3074 / Adquirido en Madrid, a D. Antonio Muñoz Román en 125.000 ptas el 14 octubre 1964.

Inscriptions +

MAESTRO QUINTIN [atribución]
Inscribed in pen and ink. Back

Inscribed in white. Front, lower central area

Exhibitions +

Nati sotto Saturno: Arte, genio y folia
30.01.2009 - 25.05.2009

The Renaissance Portrait
03.06.2008 - 07.09.2008

Erasmo en España. La recepción del Humanismo en el primer Renacimiento
04.10.2002 - 06.01.2003

Update date: 29-06-2022 | Registry created on 28-04-2015

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