Head Study of a Youth

painting of male youth looking to the side, with red curly hair, wearing black

Anthony van Dyck (1599–1641)
Head Study of a Youth, ca. 1615–17
Oil on paper
20 1/8 × 16 1/4 in. (51.2 × 41.4 cm); original size, 14 × 10 1/2 in. (35.6 × 26.7 cm)
National Gallery of Art, Washington; Gift of Adolph Caspar Miller

Although Van Dyck seems to have based the features of the young man on his own, this oil sketch is probably not a self-portrait but rather a tronie (head study) the artist could reuse in his history paintings. Figures with similar heads can be found in several compositions by the young Van Dyck. This sketch was enlarged by a later hand to give it a more finished — and salable — appearance. Oil sketches such as this are regularly recorded in seventeenth-century Flemish collections and attest to the early appreciation of even the more roughly executed examples of Van Dyck’s talent.

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