9. Gerard ter Borch the Younger

Zwolle 1617 – 1681 Deventer

Head of a Young Man

Gerard ter Borch the Younger was the only one of his father’s talented children to follow in his footsteps and become an artist. He made this drawing at the end of his career, around the middle of the 1670’s, when he had already worked in many places in Europe and had returned to the region where he was born. In Deventer, Ter Borch mainly concentrated on painting portraits – genre scenes, his other speciality, had become an exception.1

We know of no painted portrait of this engaging boy, although he does appear to have posed for another drawing in red chalk.2 In that drawing his eyes are downcast, but the cravat and the hairstyle point to the same model. The artist probably drew the head studies one after the other. The two different positions of the head – full face and in profile – tell us that the artist was looking to make a careful study of the boy.

Ter Borch seldom used red chalk.3 He preferred pen, brush or black chalk, or a combination of these. The red chalk allowed him to emphasize such things as the fine waves of the hair and the boy’s upward look. The background of the drawing in the Fondation Custodia’s collection has areas of hatching. Setting the boy’s head against a background gave the sheet a more finished look. It has consequently been suggested that the drawing in Paris may have been intended to be shown to someone outside the family, as an example for a client for a painting.4 This would explain why the drawing was not part of the Ter Borch estate (see cat. 10 and 11).


1McNeil Kettering 1988, pp. 87 and 90.

2Gerard ter Borch (II), Boy with Downcast Eyes, red chalk, 115 × 96 mm, Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, inv. no. RP-T-1887-A-800, see McNeil Kettering 1988, p. 150, no. 91.

3Another drawing of a slightly older model also belongs to this group of red chalk studies executed by Ter Borch in the mid-1670s: Gerard ter Borch (II), Head of a Young Man, red chalk, over traces of black chalk, 140 × 107 mm, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, inv. no. RP-T-1887-A-801, see McNeil Kettering 1988, no.92.

4McNeil Kettering 1988, no. 92, footnote 1, p. 150.