The Fondation Georges Rouault has confirmed the authenticity of this painting.
Circus performers and the characters of the commedia dell'arte remained Rouault's most frequent subjects throughout his career. In the romantic melancholy of Pierrot, the archetypal sad and self-effacing clown, the artist found a touchstone for the human condition and a mirror that reflected the vast parade of life. Removed from his personal preoccupation with the spectacle of performance, Tête de Pierrot looks outward towards the viewer, his gaze mischievously askance. He evokes what was for Rouault both a universal pathos and, as was also the case in the work of the young Picasso, a profoundly intimate self-portrait: "I have seen clearly that the 'clown' was I, was us, almost all of us...We are all clowns to a greater or lesser extent...Who would then dare say that he has not been overwhelmed, down to the pit of his stomach, by an immense pity?" (quoted in F. Hergott, Rouault, Barcelona, 1992, p. 15).
The heavily encrusted surface in Tête de Pierrot is characteristic of Rouault's lyrical, mature style and projects both spiritual gravitas and the very weight and substance of worldly existence. Thick, black contours set off the figure's forms against a radiant and richly textured cerulean background. Rouault worked predominantly in blues in his later career, as he concentrated his pictorial effects and handled his paints with increased density. The artist's adept handling of light recalls the effects of stained glass, which he studied as a young apprentice; as Soby suggests, Rouault may have absorbed the coloristic influences of Byzantine enamels, Roman mosaics and Coptic tapestries into his late work as well. The warm harmonies of Tête de Pierrot are a testament to Rouault's mastery of spiritual and emotional color and suggest the artist's graceful acquiescence to the "ideal of art for its own sake," which his early figures so powerfully repudiated, in the serenity of his later years (op. cit., p. 26). This new softness is confirmed by the wise Pierrot, whose "contemplation and happy sadness make one think of such figures painted by Corot for his own pleasure in the latter days of his life" (B. Dorival, "Rouault, Paintings 1929-1956," L'oeuvre peint, Monte-Carlo, 1988, p. 20).