Drawn by the Brush: Oil Sketches by Peter Paul Rubens
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The Workings of the Studio: Head Studies, Portrait and Genre
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Peter Paul Rubens
Head of a Youth, 1601-1602
Oil on paper, mounted on panel, 34.9 x 23.4 cm
Jack S. Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin, The Suida Manning Collection, 1999, acc. No. 507.1999

Catalog Entry by Marjorie E. Wieseman

Painted during his early years in Rome, this engaging study of the head of a youth is among the earliest of Rubens's oil sketches. With wide-open eyes, slightly parted lips, and an overgrown tumble of curls, the boy turns his head sharply to glance up and to his right. Strong light illuminates the subject from the right, casting the far side of his face in deep shadow. Although the head of the figure is quite finished, his shirt is described with just a few swift brushstrokes. This sketch exhibits all the Caravaggesque effetti that so profoundly shaped Rubens's work during the first decade of the century: the bold chiaroscuro and intense physicality, the sustained tension inherent in the twisted pose, even the boy's rather feminine beauty. Typically, though, Rubens's rendering is more natural and more realistically observed than that of his Italian model...

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