This charcoal study is related to the head of Giuliano de' Medici, after Michelangelo's Medici tombs, of which at least eighteen studies are known by Jacopo Tintoretto (1518/19-1594) and his studio.1
Jacopo Tintoretto was fascinated by Michelangelo's commemorative and allegorical sculptures in the Medici Chapel of San Lorenzo. According to Vasari, already in 1557 Tintoretto, obtained from Daniele da Volterra models from Michelangelo's sculptures, although it appears that he owned some since the 1540s. These models were used by Tintoretto and his pupils in the process of learning and experimenting with light in the modeling of forms. Often, they were drawn by lamplight, as the biographer Carlo Ridolfi recorded.2
The head in the present sheet is a study of the model almost in profile, and the artist emphasises, with the subtle use of light, the solidity of the sculpted forms. The drawing is characterized by the vigorous use of the charcoal, to create a powerful image that fills the entirety of the sheet.
1. C. Whistler, Drawing in Venice. Titian to Canaletto, exhib. cat., Oxford, Ashmolean Museum, 2015-2016, pp. 132-133, nos. 51-52, reproduced
2. C. Ridolfi, Le meraviglie dell'Arte, 2nd edition, Padua 1837, vol. II, p. 175