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Portrait of a Young Man in Profile. Red chalk drawing. 45.5 x 40.5 cm.
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Jakob Matthias Schmutzer was a tireless draughtsman, who honed his skills through iron discipline and a daily exercise routine. Consequently there are numerous head and figure studies extant which were made between the 1760s and 1805 – covering a period of over four decades. A particularly vivid impression is made by the larger-than-life head studies, observed from every conceivable angle and varying greatly as to facial expression and character portrayal. These drawings were mainly executed in red chalk, a drawing medium particularly popular in France. Schmutzer had learned the use of this technique from Johann Georg Wille in Paris, and the drawing methods applied are derived directly from his tutor. In the present portrait the artist has concentrated on giving a precise rendering of the subject’s physiognomy and state of mind, with the young man’s gaze betraying anguished concentration and inner turmoil. The youthful face with the prominent nose and the full, open lips is represented by a finely gradated network of vigorous and more refined cross-hatchings, while the wavy hair is rendered with a freer use of line. The disciplined drawing technique is reminiscent of the methods of an engraver. But drawings in this category are devoted more to studies of expression than to realistic portraits. The drawing of character heads had been a staple of academic instruction since the days of Charles Le Brun, whose theoretical treatise Conférence sur l’expression génerale et particulière – published in 1698 – has influenced generations of art students. Schmutzer was doubtless inspired to choose this type of picture by the example of Jean-Baptiste Greuze, who was a friend of his tutor’s.