In this quiet nocturnal scene, a young man attends to his correspondence by lamplight. A pile of documents affixed with seals and the shelf of large volumes at right suggest that the setting is a notary clerk’s office rather than a private study. Despite the scene’s intensely introspective character, the large map that hangs on the wall behind the figure serves as a reminder of the world outside, which his letter will soon reach. Executed in Amsterdam in the early years of the nineteenth century, the drawing attests to the period’s fascination with earlier Dutch art and especially the work of the Delft painter Johannes Vermeer.
Johannes Jelgerhuis, A Young Man Seated at a Writing Desk by Lamplight, 1819. Black chalk and gray wash, 14 3/8 x 11 7/16 inches (36.5 x 29.1 cm). Bequest of Charles Ryskamp, 2010.47.