Standing Youth in a Marine Uniform

ca. 1660-67

Red chalk, traces of a preliminary drawing in black chalk
Inv. No. 923

29.6 × 17.4 cm

zur  Biographie

Mozes ter Borch was born into a family of artists in Holland; the important genre painter Gerard ter Borch the Younger (1617–1681) was his elder brother. While still a child he was taught drawing by his father and siblings. He met an early death in battle while serving as a marine during the Second Anglo-Dutch War (1665–67). Notable among the modest number of works he left behind are some powerful figural drawings in red and black chalk, several of which are in the possession of the Städel Museum’s Department of Prints and Drawings. Many of the surviving sheets in this group bear numbers indicating that they originally formed a bundle or sketchbook.


From a low vantage point that gives the figure a monumental quality, a young man is shown slightly from one side, in a standing position. He turns his head to direct his pensive gaze past the viewer and towards the light. The effect of the latter is so strongly emphasized by the chalk – which models the figure in a soft and carefully controlled way – that the impression of artificial, nocturnal illumination is created. The importance attached to the light is further accentuated by the diffuse, indistinct manner of drawing on the side turned away from it: these parts of the figure seem not merely to disappear into the shadow, but virtually to dissolve into nothingness. The young men in this group of drawings, all apparently marines or sailors, are recognizably »drawn from life«. In the case of such a carefully executed work as this Standing Youth, however, it may be that Mozes ter Borch first made a sketch and then finished the picture in the studio. Only one drawing in the group (now in the Baltimore Museum of Art) bears a date, that of January 1660. Compared with the others, however, it exhibits a certain amount of clumsiness in its treatment of light, suggesting that the rest were produced quite a bit later on. Ter Borch’s impressive figural studies, which may have been intended as practice pieces or presentation sheets, combine a feeling for tangible reality with a pensive, poetic mood in a manner characteristic of Dutch art.

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