Self-Portrait of the Artist

An untidy history of artists' representations of themselves in pretty much any form you can think of (painting & sculpture, poetry & prose, photo & film…) — updated every third day and open for suggestions.

Tag: Florence

The artist looks like Mao.


The 1401 competition for the creation of the gates of the Baptistery in Florence is often proposed as the starting date for the Italian Renaissance.

Here are two self-portraits of the artist who won that competition, Lorenzo Ghiberti. The above one is from the northern gates (1403-1424 ca.); the one below from the eastern gates (1425-1452 ca.), which an awed Michelangelo dubbed Porta del Paradiso, gate of paradise.

Here Ghiberti, now an established sculptor and architect, casts aside his turban, comes to terms with his baldness, and reveals that he looks rather like chairman Mao.


(Flippancy aside, the naturalism of the self-representation was, at the time, nearly unprecedented. To see what I mean, contrast Volvinius‘ much earlier self-portrait.)

The artist looks down on you.


Possibly my favourite self-portrait, this is one of only three characters in Sandro Botticelli‘s The Adoration of the Magi (1475 ca.) staring “at the camera”.

It has long been identified as the artist himself. His expression is formidable as he looks down on the viewers, including his commissioners, with an ever so imperceptibly pursed lip and raised eyebrow.