Head of a Bearded Sleeping Man
Inscribed at lower left, in pen and brown ink, Tiziano.
Black and white chalk on blue paper faded to green gray
7 5/16 x 5 1/2 inches (185 x 133 mm.)
Gift of Janos Scholz, 1981
In comparison to Bordone's more forcefully drawn Standing Man Playing a Viola da Gamba, here the emphasis is on the shimmering surface of the subject's skin. The artist was strongly influenced by the chalk style of Titian, to whom the present sheet was once ascribed. The candid naturalism of this intimate study of a sleeping man suggests it was done from life.
Of the several paintings and frescoes by Bordone that feature similar sleeping figures, the artist's Last Supper in San Giovanni in Bragora, Venice, in which St. John rests his head on Christ's shoulder, relates most closely to this drawing.
Inspired by earlier northern European models, Venetian artists of the sixteenth century approached portraiture with a new naturalism. Portraits of individuals were commissioned to document physical likeness as well as social status, often conveyed through opulent clothing and lavish settings. Initially, most sitters were portrayed in strict profile, much like the depictions on ancient coins. Later, evocative three-quarter or frontal views dominated, inviting a more direct and intimate relationship with the viewer. In Venice and northern Italy, group portraits became fashionable. The artist Palma Giovane, for example, produced numerous quick sketches of his large family and wide circle of friends. Through the work of such artists as Carpaccio, Titian, Veronese, and Tintoretto, Venice established a remarkable portraiture tradition.