The Head of a Woman by Nicola Pisano
A slightly erratic early work by an artist who would eventually revolutionise 12th-century sculpture
The work, exhibited in the Cybo Apartment is normally attributed to the youthful phase of Nicola Pisano (1223-1281): the artist made it around 1250, about five years after arriving in Tuscany and therefore whilst still influenced by his previous commitments in the Apulian construction sites promoted by Frederick II of Swabia (1194-1250). This timeline explains the use of a rather particular material, pyrite from Elba: quarried on the island, this stone was mainly available in Tuscany and almost entirely absent from Apulia.
The Head most likely was part of the decoration of a capital, shelf or another architectural element. The way in which the sculpture was created is in-line with forms from classical and late antiquity, the same ones used by Pisano in the Heads on the cornice of the nave of the Duomo di Siena.
Once removed from its original architectural element, this Head of a Woman was moved to the Kircherian Museum, then transferred to Castel Sant’Angelo. It found its home at Palazzo Venezia in 1936.