Drawings by Domenico Fetti are extremely rare, therefore the addition of this head study to the limited corpus of his known, autograph works is of great relevance and importance. Eduard Safarik has suggested that this study is most probably drawn from life, a few years before Fetti's well-known and extraordinary oil painting, The Portrait of Francesco Andreini, now in the Hermitage (fig.1), which is tentatively dated before 1620, when Andreini left Mantua. Safarik, having studied a transparency and an actual size image of the drawing, has pointed out that there are closely similar morphological details between the painting and this drawing, such as the way the eyes and ear are executed and the peculiar undulating line on the right of his forehead, which are very characteristic of the artist's painted works. As there are so few examples of Fetti's drawings, comparisons in handling with the paintings can be very helpful. The use of heavy red chalk contours and parallel strokes are seen in a drawing of the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Louvre, inv. no. 3069) and also in a St Francis and an Angel playing music (Munich, Staatliche Graphische Sammlung, inv. no. 2820), see Domenico Fetti, exhibition catalogue, Mantua, Palazzo Te, 1996, nos. 63 and 66, reproduced. The robust handling of the chalk is, therefore, characteristic of other sheets by the artist.
The identification of the portrait with the actor Francesco Andreini is based on comparison with the frontispiece to his Le Bravure di Capitano Spavento, engraved by Abraham Tummerman, first published in 1609 in Venice and again in 1615 (see E. Safarik, Fetti, Milan 1990, pp. 285 and 286, reproduced). Fetti's beautiful and impressive portrait of Andreini is first recorded in 1653 in Paris in the collection of Cardinal Giulio Mazarini and then in the collection of Pierre Crozat. By 1774 it was in the collection of Catherine II of Russia.
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