This man is looking at someone--or something--well beyond the boundaries of the page, but his stare and half-open mouth hint at a state of ecstasy or revelation. Artists of the eighteenth century often portrayed saints, martyrs, or those who witnessed miracles with such expressions. Whether this portrait represents a particular religious figure, though, is not known. Giovanni Battista Tiepolo may have made this drawing as a study for a larger painting. In preparation for each section of an oil painting or fresco, Tiepolo made chalk studies of figures' heads, limbs, and hands.

With animated strokes, Tiepolo applied red and white chalk to blue paper, a technique favored by Venetian artists for its striking contrast. Dark red strokes define the model's facial features, including a gap between his front teeth; velvety red chalk softens the outlines and contours of his face. White highlights indicate a strong light from above, further hinting at a divine presence.


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