The J. Paul Getty Museum

Head of a Man Looking Up

Object Details


Head of a Man Looking Up


Giovanni Battista Tiepolo (Italian, 1696 - 1770)




about 1750–1760


Red and white chalk on blue laid paper

Object Number:



21.1 × 15.2 cm (8 5/16 × 6 in.)

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Object Description

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.


Giovanni Domenico Bossi, Italian, 1765 - 1854, by descent to Maria Theresa Karoline Bossi


Maria Theresa Karoline Bossi, by descent to her husband Karl Friedrich Beyerlen.


Karl Christian Freidrich Beyerlen [sale, K.G. Gutekunst, Stuttgart, March 27-28, 1882]


Hans Wendland (Lugano)


Unknown [sold, Christie's, New York, January 23, 2002, lot 43, to Katrin Bellinger Kunsthandel.]


Katrin Bellinger Kunsthandel, sold to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 2002.

Tiepolo et Guardi dans les collections françaises (November 1952)
Disegni Veneti di Collezioni Inglesi (1980)
  • Fondazione Giorgio Cini (Venice), 1980
Old Master Drawings from Venice (October 13, 1984 to March 17, 1985)
  • Castle Museum (Norwich), October 13, 1984 to March 17, 1985
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), May 17 to August 21, 2005
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

Tiepolo et Guardi: exposition de peintures et dessins provenant de collections françaises publiques et privées, exh. cat. (Paris: Galerie Cailleux, 1952), no. 41.

Morassi, Antonio. Dessins venitiens du dix-huitieme siecle de la collection du Duc de Talleyrand. Milan: D. Guarnati, 1958, no. 29.

Stock, Julien. Disegni veneti di collezioni inglesi, exh. cat. (Venice: Fondazione Cini, 1980), no. 77.

Knox, George. Giambattista and Domenico Tiepolo: A Study and Catalogue Raisonne of the Chalk Drawings. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1980, vol. 1, p. 267, no. M.450.

Old Master Drawings from Venice, exh. cat. Norwich: Norwich Museum Services, 1984, pp., 8,9, no. 18.

Christie's, New York. Old Master and 19th Century Drawings. January 23, 2002, pp. 64-65, ill., lot 43.