Italian School


Study for a Male Head in Profile

late 18th – early 19th century

Oil on paper
cm. 38 x 32


This oval oil on canvas can most probably be dated to some time between the late 18th and the first few decades of the 19th centuries.  It depicts an extremely expressive male head seen in profile and was in all likelihood a study for a decorative cycle.  The light, which calls to mind the dramatic intensity of Caravaggio's work, plays a primary role in the composition because it considerably accentuates the grave yet astonished features of the figure, who is shown with his lips slightly parted and his gaze directed upwards as he observes something we cannot see.

The Neo-Classical models of which Antonio Canova, Vincenzo Camuccini and Bertel Thorvaldsen were the greatest exponents are especially apparent in this head, in which we can admire not only the unquestioned quality of the draughtsmanship but also the contrasting palette that so intensely underscores the figure's strong temperament.