This expressive sheet is a study for the man's head in Watteau's painting 'Mezzetin,' also in the Metropolitan Museum. Mezzetin was a character in the popular commedia dell'arte, typically amorous and sentimental. In the Museum's painting, he sits on a stone bench outside a building, playing a guitar and gazing plaintively at an unseen window. The artist placed a female garden statue in the woods behind the Mezzetin, its back turned to the actor, suggesting an unrequited love.
In this robust red and black study, Watteau established the angle of the head, the uplifted eyes, and the parted lips that he carried over into the painting. In its emotional force and the melding of the two colors of chalk, this sheet recalls the precedent of Rubens, an artist much admired by Watteau.