Anton Raphael Mengs Ústi nad Labem, Bohemia (Czech Republic) 1728 - 1779 Rome
- Anton Raphael Mengs
- portrait sketch of the head of a young man
- inscribed on the reverse: Portrait of W. Pitt bought in Rome
- oil on canvas
- 40.5 by 35.5 cm.; 16 by 14 in.
Mengs made consistent use of ad vivum head studies such as this in preparation for his larger formal portraits. One such, that of Count Orsini-Rosenberg, painted in Rome in 1756, was, as a contemporary inscription testifies, painted "en deux heures de temps" (reproduced in S. Röttgen in Anton Raphael Mengs 1728-1779 and his British Patrons, exh. cat., London, Kenwood, 1993, cat. no. 12). Studies such as these afford a good glimpse of Mengs' working methods: they probably represent all the time that pressures of work would have allowed him with his sitter, and they possess a directness and spontaneity that the more finished portraits often lack. Unfortunately, no finished portrait relating to the present sketch survives, and the identity of the sitter remains unknown. The old identification recorded by an inscription on the stretcher of the sitter as William Pitt the Younger is erroneous, as Pitt never undertook the Grand Tour. A possibility might perhaps be a Thomas Pitt (c.1737-93), later Lord Camelford, who is recorded as travelling to Rome in 1761 and again in 1778-79 (see J. Ingamells, A Dictionary of British and Irish Travellers in Italy 1701-1800, New Haven and London 1997, pp. 774-5).