In addition to being a painter, draftsman, and pastellist, the Florentine-born Luti was a connoisseur, drawings collector, and dealer, so busy, apparently, that he left only a small oeuvre. He studied both in Florence and Rome, where he settled in 1690, opened a drawing academy, and enjoyed the continuing patronage of Cosimo III de' Medici (1642–1723), Grand Duke of Tuscany. (In 1670, while in France, the Grand Duke had visited the studio of Robert Nanteuil [1623–1678], a well-known portraitist working in pastel and colored chalks and thereafter he encouraged the practice of pastel portraiture.) Luti was admitted to the Accademia di San Luca in Rome in 1694 and elected its principal in 1720. His highly colored pastels, relatively small in scale, were admired by his contemporaries, who saw in them the influence of Correggio (active by 1514, d. 1534) and Federico Barocci (1535?–1612). Of three types—portraits, bearded male heads, and, as here, studies from the model—Luti's are the earliest finished pastels made in Italy. Although limited in number, they are a characteristic aspect of his work, and he seems to have presented them to important clients.
In this study head of a boy wearing a blue coat Luti conveys the disarming directness and sweetness of the child. The study exists in many versions, painted and drawn, but none of the others exhibits the intensity of glance, the brightness of tone, or the tensile strength of the colored strokes found here. The work is one of a pair (for its pendant, see 2007.361).
[Katharine Baetjer 2010]