A young man appears in half length, bending over a book he holds in his proper left hand. His right hand rests on its top edge while his index finger marks another page. His engaged pose and focused gaze suggest deep reflection, even critical study. His flowing dark mane falls loosely, as impressive as it is unpretentious, and his prominent cheekbones, strong nose and square jaw further project youthful vigour. His adornments are likewise simple and straightforward: a basic yellow jacket over a loose undershirt emerging at the neck, and a plain ribbon tying his hair to his left. As an informal everyday scene of a youthful reader, this painting takes up subject matter popularized in Dutch art of the 17th century. Set in the context of French art of the second half of the 18th century, however, it takes on a sterner moral tone.