Caught in quiet contemplation, this unidentified man gazes intently downward. Giovanni Girolamo Savoldo's mastery of chalk and his careful use of shadows and highlights increase the sense of drama in this characteristically penetrating, naturalistic portrayal, one of many that influenced generations of artists.
In particular, Savoldo varied the texture and thickness of his strokes of black chalk to create a range of effects. On the left side of the sheet, for example, a mass of inky lines silhouettes the edge of the man's face. Savoldo drew the chalk lines around the edge of his chin more lightly, giving the impression of a wispy mustache and beard that softens into the hollows of his neck and cheeks. The gray-green tone of the paper serves as a middle tone between the black outlines and the white gleam on the man's forehead and ear.