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: XVI century

Woman vanitas.


The longer I look at baroque-inclined conceptual artist Helen Chadwick‘s Vanitas II (1986), the more I am persuaded that Clara Peeters‘ quite traditional Vanitas, painted over three and a half centuries earlier, is much more radical.

Young women and fresh flowers had long been compared in poetry written by men to persuade their mistresses to concede their flower. Here, our awareness that the woman in the painting probably is the artist herself makes the wilting flower’s proximity to her more poignant than it has ever been.

(In fact, once you notice the wilting flower, you soon start getting the strange feeling that every other object in the painting does not assert its value effortlessly.)


Helen Chadwick must have realised that the female body in art is never a neutral subject. She decided to abandon its explicit representation two years after her self-portrait was shot.

The artist introduces himself.


The future master of Mannerism, Girolamo Francesco Maria Mazzola—later to be known as Parmigianino—painted this virtuosic Self-portrait in a convex mirror in 1524.

He hoped “that it might serve him as an introduction letter … to the professional art-makers” (Vasari, Le Vite).

Parmigianino was twenty-one. By the end of the century, the painting had changed hands several times, ranking a pope, a poet, a sculptor, an architect and an emperor amongst its owners.