Mozes ter Borch came from a family of artists from Zwolle in Holland; the important genre painter Gerard ter Borch the Younger (1617-1681) was his older brother. Even as a child, Mozes received instruction in drawing from his father and his siblings. He died young in battle as a navy soldier during the Second Anglo-Dutch War (1665-1667). Among the not very extensive oeuvre he left behind, a number of haunting figural drawings in red and black chalk stand out. Several of them are preserved in the Collection of Prints and Drawings at the Städel Museum. Many of the surviving sheets in this group bear old numbering, which indicates that they originally formed a collection or sketchbook.
Seen from a low perspective, which lends him a certain monumentality, the standing figure of a young man is depicted slightly from one side. He has turned his head and his thoughtful gaze to look past the viewer in the direction of the incident light. The artist has so strongly emphasised this light with a soft and meticulously modelled use of the chalk that the impression created is one of nocturnal artificial lighting. The importance attached to the light is underscored by a drawing style which fades out on the side that is turned away from the viewer. Here, the figure seems not only to dissolve into the shadows, but almost to disappear.
The young men in this group of drawings, who appear to be marines or sailors, are clearly drawn "from life". It is nonetheless possible that Mozes ter Borch first made a rough sketch of this 'Standing Youth' and then executed the meticulously designed work later in his studio. Only one of the sheets in this group of drawings (in the Baltimore Museum of Art) bears a date: January 1660. When compared with the other sheets, however, its treatment of light still looks somewhat clumsy, and this suggests that the other sheets were probably produced some time later. Ter Borch's impressive figure studies, which may have been practice or presentation sheets, combine in a manner characteristic of Dutch art a feeling for tangible reality and a contemplative, poetic mood.