Head of a Man

Artist: Antoine Watteau (French, Valenciennes 1684–1721 Nogent-sur-Marne)

Date: ca. 1718

Medium: Red and black chalk

Dimensions: 5 7/8 x 5 3/16 in. (14.9 x 13.1 cm)

Classification: Drawings

Credit Line: Rogers Fund, 1937

Accession Number: 37.165.107


This expressive sheet is a study for the man's head in Watteau's painting Mezzetin, also in the Museum's collection (34.138). Mezzetin was a character in the popular commedia dell'arte, typically amorous and sentimental. In the Museum's painting, he sits on a stone bench outside a building, playing a guitar and gazing plaintively at an unseen window. The artist placed a female garden statue in the woods behind the Mezzetin, its back turned to the actor, suggesting an unrequited love. In this robust red and black study, Watteau established the angle of the head, the uplifted eyes, and the parted lips that were carried over into the painting. In its emotional force and the melding of the two colors of chalk, this sheet recalls the precedent of Rubens, an artist much admired by Watteau.