This boldly brushed head is typical of the dynamic figure studies Anthony van Dyck made in the late 1610s while he was active in Peter Paul Rubens’s workshop. As in his other works from that time, Van Dyck used the play of light across the young man’s form to enhance his physical and psychological character. Van Dyck applied paint thinly in the shadows, but accented the face with bold impastos, particularly on the forehead, and merely indicated the man’s wavy, reddish brown hair with rapid brushstrokes. Head studies such as this often served as models for figures in larger compositions, and, indeed, Van Dyck used this study as the model for an apostle in a painting of Christ Healing the Paralytic (Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen, Munich), and Rubens used him as a soldier in his The Interpretation of the Victim (Sammlungen des Fürsten von und zu Liechtenstein, Vaduz), a scene from his tapestry series about the Roman consul Decius Mus.
Van Dyck painted this head study on paper, but it was later mounted to a wood panel after his death. At this time, the head was also worked up to a greater point of finish and the panel was expanded, presumably so that the painting could be sold as a bust-length portrait. The painting is now framed to reveal only the original paper support as Van Dyck intended.
Possibly Josephus Augustinus Brentano, Amsterdam; possibly (his estate sale, at his residence, Amsterdam, 13 May 1822, no. 96). Lord Clifton. Edouard Warneck, Paris. (Galerie Dr. [Kurt] Benedikt & Co., Berlin) and (Van Diemen & Co., New York), 1928-1929. Adolph Caspar Miller [1866-1953], Washington, D.C.; bequest 1953 to NGA.
- Loan Exhibition of Old Masters, Art Institute of Chicago, 1928-1929, no cat.
- Paintings by Rubens and Van Dyck, Van Diemen Galleries, New York, 1928.
- Eighth Loan Exhibition of Old Masters. Paintings by Anthony Van Dyck, Detroit Institute of Arts, 1929, no. 1, repro.
- Rubens: Inspired by Italy and Established in Antwerp, The Bunkamura Museum of Art, Tokyo; Kitakyushu Municipal Museum of Art; Niigata Prefectural Museum of Modern Art, 2013, no. 43, repro. and fig. 18.
- "Loan Exhibition of Old Masters at Chicago." Art News 27 (Jan. 1929): repro.
- Glück, Gustav. Van Dyck: des Meisters Gemälde. Klassiker der Kunst in Gesamtausgaben 13. Revised 2nd ed. New York and Stuttgart, 1931: 526, under no. 64.
- d'Hults, Roger-A., and Horst Vey. Antoon van Dyck, tekeningen en olieverfschetsen. (Exh. cat. Rubenshuis, Antwerp, and Museum Boymans-van Beuningen, Rotterdam.) Antwerp, 1960: 53, under no. 17.
- Vey, Horst. Die Zeichnungen Anton van Dycks. 2 vols. Brussels, 1962: I: 104, under no. 35.
- Summary Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1965: 48.
- European Paintings and Sculpture, Illustrations. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1968: 40, no. 1174, repro.
- Jaffé, Michael. "Some Recent Acquisitions of Seventeenth-Century Flemish Painting." Report and Studies in the History of Art 1969 (1970): 22-23, repro., as Jordaens.
- European Paintings: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1975: 122, repro.
- Larsen, Erik. L'opera completa di Van Dyck. 2 vols. Classici dell'arte 102-103. Milan, 1980: 2:133-134, no. A92, repro.
- National Gallery of Art. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Washington, 1992: no.147, repro.
- Larsen, Erik. The Paintings of Anthony van Dyck. 2 vols. Freren, 1988: 2:A21, as "a free study from the nineteenth century, done probably in Germany by a Romantic artist."
- Barnes, Susan J. Van Dyck: A Complete Catalogue of the Paintings. New Haven and London, 2004: no. I.11.
- Wheelock, Arthur K., Jr. Flemish Paintings of the Seventeenth Century. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, D.C., 2005: 22-25, color repro.