In a shadowy boudoir scene with a theatrically parted canopy, Venus combs her hair before a mirror held by Cupid. Rather than detailing her facial features, Joseph Heintz the Elder focused attention on the goddess's unusual pose, displaying her elongated back in an extended curve, slightly twisted in the Mannerist fashion.
Employing a distinctive use of chalk, Heintz recalled the works of Michelangelo in his refined modeling of nudes in smoothly modulated chalks. During two trips to Italy, the Swiss artist had assimilated a variety of Italian drawing techniques. He probably made this sketch during his second voyage south in 1592. His employer, the Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II, had sent Heintz there to sketch antiquities and to acquire works of art for the imperial collection.