Despite being separated from her original architectural surroundings, and even the rest of her body, this head still retains an other-worldly beauty and elegance. Animated with a faint smile and wearing a dazzlingly luxurious jeweled cap, as Scher notes, it probably represents one of the more popular female saints from the early 16th century such as Barbara, Catherine or Mary Magdalen and who were often so elaborately-dressed that their costumes verged on the fantastic (Little, op. cit., p. 96). As Scher also notes when it was exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, since it has been separated from its original context, not only is it difficult to identify who it was representing but it is even more difficult to determine when and for where it was carved (Ibid.). But his catalogue entry does provide some possible contemporaries that might have influenced the carver of the present head, including Michel Colombe (active 1496-circa 1515), most specifically his Head of Young Woman, now in the Cleveland Museum of Art, and his figure of Prudence, from the tomb of François II of Brittany in the cathedral at Nantes, as all of these figures share the high forehead, narrow, slanted eyes, faint smile and small, pointed chin of the present head (Ibid., pp. 144-145, cat. no. 61 and fig. 86). And another close comparison illustrated by Scher is the Virgin, from the Visitation Group in the church of Saint-Jean at Troyes (Ibid., p. 97, fig. 67).
This head has obviously survived rough treatment, but much of the spectacularly-detailed carving such as the delicate, swirling hair at the top and sides of her head and the elaborate ‘jeweled’ details of her cap are all well-preserved. Its effect of calm, imperturbable elegance, carved over four hundred years ago, is unchanged.