Painted in 1916, this gouache and charcoal study of an infant depicts Schiele's nephew Anton Peschka Jr, born on the 27th December 1914, the young Anton, or 'Toni' as he was known, was the first child of Schiele's close friend and fellow artist Anton Peschka and Schiele's beloved younger sister Melanie.
Children feature prominently in Schiele's art, not least because the artist was fascinated by the unique insight their constantly changing and developing bodies gave into the processes and passage of life. Though a family member, 'Toni' Peschka was no exception in this respect, and Schiele studied and drew the boy on numerous occasions between 1914 and 1918, even making preparations for a full-scale oil portrait of him.
A dispassionate observer of life as what he described as its perpetual process of 'living/dying', Schiele reveled in drawing children, as he saw in them the full vitality and fierce energy of life, something that he also equated with the creative drive and powers of the artist. In his portraits of his nephew however, Schiele was less preoccupied with rendering the traumatic living/dying melancholy of existence that distinguishes so many of his often allegorical portraits of mothers and children for example, than with capturing the precise details of his nephew's features, posture and physical development. In this work painted towards the beginning of 1916, he depicts the infant child seated, but still in need of support, looking out at the world, his arms splayed out and his chubby hands still unconsciously grasping.
The verso of this gouache and charcoal work depicts a reclining nude drawn from above, lying with her hands behind her head. Rendered in a thin, sharp, almost drypoint-like, pencil line, it is a swift and masterful study made in 1914.