Head Studies of A Young Man Wearing a Hat and of a Black Man

Attributed to Lucas Franchoys the Younger Flemish

Not on view

This large sheet, probably a preparatory drawing for an unknown painting, contains graceful head studies of two figures: a black man looking upward and a white man wearing a hat or headdress vaguely reminiscent of a turban. In technique and figural style, the drawing compares with sheets by Lucas Franchoys the Younger, a Flemish artist who may have worked for a period of time in Rubens’s studio. Particularly close are three drawings by his hand in the Hessisches Landesmuseum, Darmstadt (inv. 282), and Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam (inv. RP-T-1884-A-300 and 301), all believed to date to the 1650s.[1]

As has been noted, the black figure at the top of the sheet, whose face appears to be strongly illuminated—the result of rubbing white chalk on the paper—brings to mind the young attendant blowing on embers in Rubens’s 1609 Adoration of the Magi (Museo del Prado, Madrid).[2] The figure in the drawing, however, is somewhat older, and instead of lowering his chin to blow on something in his hands, he raises his face upwards and is thus more easily envisioned as a kneeling figure receiving the divine light of the Christ Child. He could well be a study for a magus, one of whom was frequently represented as a black man by Netherlandish and Flemish artists in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The other figure on the sheet would also make sense as either an attendant (an older version of another youth in Rubens’s 1609 painting) or a magus, standing above and gazing downward at the newborn Christ.

Although the figures may take their cue from Rubens’s work, they were very likely drawn after live models. The contours and volumes of their faces are carefully observed, if perhaps slightly exaggerated, and given palpable form through the combined application of black and white chalk.

(JSS, 8/24/2018)

[1] See Heidi Colsoul, “Lucas Franchoys de Jonge (1616-1681): Oeuvrecatalogus,” in Handelingen van de Koninklijke Kring voor Oudheidkunde, Letteren en Kunst van Mechelen (Mechelen, 1988), pp. 138-41.

[2] Master Drawings Catalog 2014 (Milford, CT: Christopher Bishop Fine Art, 2014), p. 38.

Head Studies of A Young Man Wearing a Hat and of a Black Man, Attributed to Lucas Franchoys the Younger (Flemish, Mechelen 1616–1681 Mechelen), Black and white chalk, on blue paper; framing lines in pen and black ink

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