Head of a Man Looking Up

Object Details


Head of a Man Looking Up


Giovanni Battista Tiepolo (Italian, 1696 - 1770)




1750 to 1760


Red and white chalk on blue laid paper


21.1 × 15.2 cm (8 5/16 × 6 in.)

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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.

Casting Characters: Portraits and Studies of Heads (November 4, 2003 to February 1, 2004)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), November 4, 2003 to February 1, 2004
Light and Water: Drawing in Eighteenth-Century Venice (May 17 to August 21, 2005)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), June 1 to August 22, 2004
Ten Years of Drawings: What, How, and Why (January 29 to May 4, 2008)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), January 29 to May 4, 2008