Boselli records even the smallest detail with his rapid, nervous brushstrokes: the long, coarse eyelashes, the raspy texture of the tongue and the flap of skin left behind after the cut-off ear. The restricted colour scheme consists only of black, white and earth tones. There is no visible source of light; the darkness closes in on the head and keeps our gaze firmly fixed there. Other typical traits include the pastose highlights in the white fatty tissue and the exposed tooth; today it glistens in artificial spotlights, but back then it would have shone in daylight from studio windows. Such chiaroscuro brilliance was a much-praised painterly effect during the Baroque era. This painting is one of Boselli’s few oil sketches done after the life. It was not intended for sale, but as part of the artist’s own private collection of “patterns” that could be used over and over.
(Text courtesy of the National Gallery of Denmark; Image CC BY 3.0).