Giovanni Girolamo Savoldo (Brescia 1480/85-1548) Head of a bearded man, in three-quarter profile to the left black and white chalk, on grey-blue paper 10½ x 7 3/8 in. (265 x 188 mm.)
One of a small group of head studies of similar size by Savoldo, all drawn in very soft heavily stumped black chalk with highlights in white chalk. Others are at the Getty Museum (G. Goldner and L. Hendrix, European Drawings: Catalogue of the Collections, Malibu, I, 1988, no. 45; and II, 1992, no. 45), the Royal Library, Windsor Castle, the Uffizi, and the Louvre (S. Ebert-Schifferer et al., Giovanni Gerolamo Savoldo und die Renaissance zwischen Lombardei und Venetien, exhib. cat., Frankfurt, Kunsthalle, 1990, nos. II.1-2, 4-5 and 7-8). Particularly characteristic are the heavily lidded, rather sunken eyes and the dramatic chiaroscuro built up with long broad strokes of thick black chalk.
The impact of these intense and searching portraits is in part due to the scale of the brooding head studies which seem uncomfortably restricted within the boundaries of the sheet, a technique also employed in Savoldo's painted compositions in which the actors fill the entire picture space. The strong chiaroscuro in Savoldo's drawings is also mirrored in the paintings, in part by the powerful use of colour developed after he settled in Venice in 1521.