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: mirror

The artist has an unheimlich descendant.


Three hundred and sixty-six years before Hugo Williams’ ‘Last poem‘, Pieter Claesz‘s Vanitas with violin and glass ball (ca 1628) combines a classic Dutch seventeenth-century vanitas with a self-portrait.

(The violin’s music that cannot be heard is particularly relevant to Williams’ tongue that will not speak.)

The artist at work can be seen in the glass ball, which flaunts Van Eyck and Parmigianino‘s convex mirrors amongst its notable predecessors, and claims a Still-life with a spherical mirror (1934) by M. C. Escher, the drawing Dutchman, as its unheimlich descendant.


The artist…?


Convex mirrors (such as Parmigianino’s) became somewhat fashionable in the Renaissance.

This is probably the first, and certainly the most celebrated, to appear in a painting: the legendary Arnolfini Portrait by Jan van Eyck, dated 1434.


I have uploaded the mirror in high resolution, so you can zoom in and see if you can tell whether one of the two figures in it (possibly the one with the red turban) is indeed Jan van Eyck.

He should look something like this–though his identity is disputed here too:


(Jan van Eyck, Portrait of a man in a chaperon [Self-portrait?], 1433)

The artist does three-for-one.


Norman Rockwell‘s Triple Self-Portrait (1960) pretty much does what it says.

Behind the humorous façade, however, lies a highly self-conscious painting. Famous self-portraits by Dürer, Rembrandt, Picasso, and Van Gogh appear. Three of the most popular genres of self-portraiture are represented alongside the ‘standard’ oil self-portrait: the study, the artist at work, the artist in the mirror.

Still, the artist himself remains elusive, his eyes concealed behind the reflection on his glasses.