Description & Technical information

Carlo Dolci has been described as ‘the most sophisticated draughtsman of the Florentine seicento’, and his drawings were owned by such prominent Florentine collectors of his day as Baldinucci and Cardinal Leopoldo de’ Medici. The present sheet is a particularly fine example of the artist’s polished draughtsmanship, as has been noted by the Dolci scholar Francesca Baldassari: ‘This beautiful face of a young man, meticulously defined and with great refinement in every detail, is stylistically one of the most expressive heads drawn by Carlo Dolci. Within his graphic corpus, the most striking comparisons are to be found with the ‘Portrait of the Artist’s Wife’ (Paris, Musée du Louvre, Inv.1140), characterized by similar minute marks and intricate crosshatching, which in this drawing is particularly visible in the neck and the cheerful cap. A peculiar characteristic of Dolci, also evident in this ‘Head of a Young Man’, is moreover that the image is both ‘ideal’ and ‘natural’, which he achieves by defining and punctuating the roundness and purity of the face in every detail. Since it cannot be linked to any known work by Dolci, this [drawing] would appear to belong to the category of autonomous studies, conceived as works of art in themselves, of which the artist produced many examples. Although it is quite difficult to date Dolci’s autonomous graphic works due to the invariability of his drawing style, this ‘Head of a Young Man’ would seem to be dated between the 1640s and 1660s, when the painter broke away from [Matteo] Rosselli’s decorative style and achieved results similar to the purist and sharply defined style of his fellow countrymen Lorenzo Lippi and Ottavio Vannini.’

Dolci’s portrait drawings are among his most appealing works as a draughtsman. As another scholar has noted, ‘Portrait drawings…of family or friends, whether autonomous or preparatory for paintings in other genres, are not rare in Dolci’s oeuvre. Some of the most beautiful [are] made in the red or black, or red-and-black pencil technique traditional in Florence.’ Among other stylistically comparable portrait drawings in red chalk by Dolci are studies of a small child6 and a portrait of Filippo Baldinucci, both in the Louvre, a drawing of a sleeping child in the Uffizi, and a drawing of a young boy looking upwards, which was on the London art market in 2000.

Medium: Red chalk on buff paper, Pastel on canvas
Dimensions: 24.8 x 18 cm (9³/₄ x 7¹/₈ inches)
Provenance: Private collection, Florence.

Categories: Paintings, Drawings & Prints