Baroque and Rococo


Baroque and Rococo Art Map


The Art of the Portrait


Masterpieces of European Portrait-Painting




  The Art of the Portrait
  The Great Age of the Portrait
  Origins of the Portrait
  Jan van Eyck: Tymotheos
  Jan van Eyck: The Marriage of Giovanni Arnolfini
  Jan van Eyck: The Virgin of Chancellor Rolin
  Rogier van der Weyden: Portrait of a Lady
  Jean Fouquet: Etienne Chevalier Presented by St Stephen
  Hans Memling: Man with a Roman Coin
  Antonello da Messina: Portrit of a Man, known as "Il Condottiere"
  Early Portrait of a Ruler
  Piero della Francesca: Federigo da Montefeltro and his Wife Battista Sforza
  Portraits of Renaissance Women
  Pisanello: Young Lady of the Este Family
  Leonardo da Vinci: The Lady with the Ermine (Cecilia Gallerani)
  Leonardo da Vinci: Mona Lisa (La Gioconda)
  Giorgione: Portrait of a Young Lady ("Laura")
  Piero di Cosimo: Simonetta Vespucci
  Agnolo Bronzino: Laura Battiferri
  The Psychological Portrait
  Lorenzo Lotto: Young Man before a White Curtain
  Lorenzo Lotto: Man with a Golden Paw
  Moretto da Brescia: Portrait of a Young Man
  Portraits and Caricatures
  Quentin Massys: Old Woman (The Queen of Tunis)
  Portraits of Renaissance Humanists
  Luca Signorelli: Portrait of a Middle-Aged Man
  Agnolo Bronzino: Portrait of Ugolino Martelli
  Raphael: Baldassare Castiglione
  Lucas Cranach the Elder: Dr. Cuspinian and his Wife
  Hans Holbein the Younger: Erasmus of Rotterdam
  Mythologising Portraits
  Agnolo Bronzino: Andrea Doria as Neptune
  Nicoletto da Modena (?): Francis I of France as an Antique God
  Portraits of Popes and Cardinals
  Raphael: Pope Leo X with Cardinals Giuliano de' Medici and Luigi de Rossi
  Titian: Pope Paul III, Cardinal Alessandro Farnese and Duke Ottavio Farnese
  Portraits of Artists and Collectors
  Lorenzo Lotto: Andrea Odoni
  Titian: Jacopo de Strada
  Artists' Self-Portraits
  Albrecht Durer: Self-Portrait with a Fur Coat
  Nicolas Poussin: Self-Portrait
  Rembrandt: Self-Portraits
  Portrait of a Friend
  Hans Holbein the Younger: The French Ambassadors to the English Court
  "Teste Composte"
  Giuseppe Arcimboldo: Vertumnus
  Portraits of 16th and 17th-century Rulers
  Titian: Emperor Charles V after the Battle of Miihlberg
  Anthony van Dyck: Charles I of England, Hunting
  Hyacinthe Rigaud: Louis XIV of France
  Philippe de Champaigne: Triple Portrait of Cardinal Richelieu
  Marriage and Family Portraits
  Peter Paul Rubens: Rubens and Isabella Brant under the Honeysuckle
  Jacob Jordaens: The Artist and his Family
  Portraits of Children
  Giovanni Francesco Caroto: Boy with a Drawing
  Jan van Scorel: The Schoolboy
  Diego Velazquez: The Infante Philip Prosper
  Dutch Civic Guard Portraits
  Rembrandt: "The Night Watch"
  Portraits of Regents
  Frans Hals: The Governors of the Old Men's Almshouse at Haarlem
  Anatomy Lessons
  Rembrandt: The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp
  Portraits of Fools and Dwarfs
  Diego Velazquez: The Dwarf "El Primo"



Artists' Self-Portraits


see also:

Nicolas Poussin

Nicolas Poussin:



Nicolas Poussin

At the left of the canvas there is a woman wearing a diadem with an eye. This has been interpreted as an allegory: painting crowned as the greatest of the arts.


Nicolas Poussin
Oil on canvas, 78 x 94 cm
Musee du Louvre, Paris

Nicolas Poussin's Self-Portrait, executed in 1650, is a painted theory of art: a cryptogram containing the aesthetic principles of an artist, who, since 1628, had spent most of his working life in Rome. Poussin had done an earlier version of the painting in 1649 (now in the Gemaldegalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin - Preubischer Kulturbesitz), painted to replace a disappointing portrait of himself which his Parisian patrons had commissioned from a Roman artist.
The most conspicuous motif of the earlier self-portrait is the "memento mori". The artist presents himself before a sepulchral monument - anticipating his own -flanked by putti; the expression on his face is almost cheerful. Viewed from a distance he appears to be smiling, while his head, inclined slightly to one side, suggests a melancholic mood . Cheerfulness in the face of death demonstrated the composure of the Stoics, a philosophy for which Poussin had some sympathy. The early self-portrait, too, contains an allusion to Poussin's theory of art: the title of the book "De lumine et colore" (On light and colour). Poussin's reference to colour here is less surprising than Anthony Blunt, who defined Poussin as a "partisan" of "disegno" (drawing, design), would have us believe. In his correspondence with Paul Freart de Chantelou, Poussin repeatedly defined the analysis of light as the basis of all painting. In Poussin's view, echoing earlier theories of art, colour was the modification of light. Poussin was therefore not as radical an advocate of the "designo - colore" antithesis as doctrinaire Classicist historians of art theory have suggested. His practice as an artist speaks against the view of him as onesided; instead it betrays the influence of the Venetian colourists, in whose work the world was suffused in a golden light.
In the self-portrait at the Louvre the artist, wearing a dark green gown and with a stole thrown over his shoulders, is shown in a slightly different pose: posture is erect, his head turned to present an almost full-
face view. His facial expression is more solemn, but also less decided. Instead of funereal symbolism, the setting is the artist's studio, lent a strangely abstract quality by a staggered arrangement of three framed canvases, one behind the other, whose quadratic structure is echoed by the dark doorframe behind them. It is apparent that the canvas nearest to us is empty, except for a painted inscription.
The empty canvas is a cipher for the "disegno interno" (internal idea), or "concetto" (plan), a conceptual version of the painting which, according to a theory formulated in 1590 by Giovanni Paolo Lomazzo ("Idea dell' tempio della pittura"), precedes its practical realisation. Poussin's emphasis of the painters ability to work with his intellect concurs with the ideas of the philospher and poet. At the left of the second canvas there is a woman in front of a landscape, wearing a diadem with an eye; a man's hands are reaching out to hold her
shoulders. This has - probably rightly -been interpreted as an allegory: painting crowned as the greatest of the arts. At the same time, the embrace is a symbol for the bond of friendship between Poussin and his patron Chantelou.
A tiny, but highly significant detail is the ring Poussin is wearing on the little finger of his right hand, which rests on a fastened portfolio. Studied closely, the stone reveals itself to be a diamond, cut in the shape of a four-sided pyramid. As an emblematic motif, this symbolised the Stoic notion of Constantia, or stability and strength of character. Poussin was referring here both to his friendship with Chantelou, and to his intention to remain firmly loyal to the strict discipline of heroic Classicism. Popularised by contemporary moralizing literature, the notion of personal identity had begun to make itself felt in this era for the first time, and constancy in a person's attitudes, thoughts and conduct was its most important quality.
Poussin struggled to maintain his independence of mind and loyality to his own ideals against the demands of the French court, and, in so doing, articulated the growing sense of autonomy of the ascendant bourgoisie.


Nicolas Poussin
Portrait of the painter Nicolas Poussin of Les
Andelys (painted) at Rome during the Jubilee
Year of 1650, aged 56 vears.




Nicolas Poussin

The ring holds a diamond, cut in the shape of a four-sided pyramid.
As an emblematic motif, this was the Stoic symbol of stabillity and strength of character.


Nicolas Poussin

Nicolas Poussin
Oil on canvas, 78 x 65 cm
Staatliche Museen, Berlin


Nicolas Poussin

Nicolas Poussin of Les Andelys, Member of the Academy of Rome,
Principal Painter in Ordinary to Louis, the rightful King of France.
Painted at Rome in the year of our Lord 1649, aged 55 years.



see also:

Rembrandt van Rijn





Oil on canvas, 102 x 80 cm
National Gallery, London


Very few artists of the modern period have left as many self-portraits as Rembrandt. His lifelong study of his own physiognomy, his desire to keep a pictorial record of his constantly changing physical and psychological features, can be taken as a sign of his interest in autobiography and as proof of the belief he nurtured, in spite of the many crises and setbacks he suffered, in the uniqueness of the individual.
Different kinds of autobiographical narrative - memoirs, for instance, or episodes from lived experience interspersed in fictional texts (as with Grimmelshausen), or regular diary entries - were becoming increasingly important in seventeenth-century literature. "Affective individualism" (Lawrence Stone), which had begun to penetrate every aspect of bourgeois experience, had entered poetry, too. Petrarch had anticipated this centuries before with the interest he provoked in his biography: "You will wish to know what kind of person I was."
In the seventeenth century, this humanist motto was generally seen in a confessional or religious light. Rembrandt is known to have maintained frequent contact with members of many different confessions, religious groupings and sects (Jews, Mennonites, Socinians etc.), and it is probably not far wrong to assume that qualities which all these groups had in common - their ethical awareness, their intensely emotional character, and even their potentially oppositional nature - had a profound influence on Rembrandt's character.


Oil on panel, 15,5 x 12,5 cm
Alte Pinakothek, Munich



On the other hand, it would be quite wrong to see Rembrandt's self-portraiture entirely in the light of his religious introspection. Indeed, his method reveals somewhat more affinity to doctrines of emotional expression which influenced contemporary academic art theory. In his early self-portraits, and in a number of smaller etchings which, significantly enough, are almost entirely devoid of ornament, allowing the artist to concentrate exclusively on the face, Rembrandt experiments with constantly changing facial expressions, working his way through the full gamut of human feelings and their physiognomic equivalents until, at one end of the scale, all that remains is a grimace. The face, the focal point of the personality, is given symbolic status: it represents human feeling.
Rembrandt thus acts out and gives visual form to different emotional states: alarm, worry, care, the torment of fear; or he portrays himself as someone staring with desperate, distracted eyes, with his hair standing on end (1630), or as a person laughing and showing his teeth. While Charles Le Brun (1619-1690), the Director of the Academie Royale founded in 1648, reduced the various forms of emotional expression to a schematic code in his posthumously (1698) published tract "Methode pour apprendre a dessiner des passions, proposee dans une conference sur l'expression generale et particuliere" (Method of learning how to draw the passions, proposed during a lecture on expression in general and particular), Rembrandt plumbed the depths of human emotion and discovered, by practical experiment, the means of its visual representation.

Little Self-portrait
Oil on wood, 48,5 x 40,5 cm
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna


Rembrandt was not, therefore, giving vent to his own feelings. He was not interested in revealing his "innermost being", but rather in exploiting his own mimic abilities to produce an encyclopaedia of the human feelings. He fashioned an instrument of empirical psychology out of his theatrical, indeed comic, ability to slip into and simultaneously observe a wide range of emotional states: an example of the valuable contribution made by the fine arts to the development of a modern science whose subject was the study of different forms of human individuality.
While the examples of his work mentioned above, especially those of the early period, presented a range of physical reflexes or expressive reactions to emotional states, his portraits of the middle period go beyond spontaneous physical expressiveness to experiment with a number of conventional poses and gestures. The pose in his self-portrait of 1640, imitates Titian's so-called "Ariosto" portrait, with the sitter's sidelong glance and his bent arm resting on a parapet. Another self-portrait, executed in 1659, now in the Mellon Collection at the National Gallery, Washington, imitates the type of pose established by Raphael's portrait of Castiglione. Rembrandt purports here to paint himself as a "gentiluomo" (nobleman, gentleman), or "cortegiano" (courtier).







Oil on canvas, 84,5 x 66 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington



A third form of self-expression explored by Rembrandt is the use of ornamental devices, attributes and costumes to define status and present a calculated, or desirable, image of the self. Thus Rembrandt leaps from one role to another, constantly altering his social position. Sometimes, he appears as a beggar with outstretched hand, sitting on a rock (1630); there is perhaps good reason, too, for a number of his self-portraits to turn up surrounded by sketched scenes of beggars. At other times, we find him posing as a sophisticated gentleman with reinforced collar, chain of honour, precious stones or other attributes of rank; on one occasion, he paints himself as a prince with a scimitar (1634, etching. In the same year, interestingly enough, he portrays himself as a burgher wearing a beret). Yet another guise is that of the oriental sultan in a turban, executed in full-length; in this painting, the histrionic artificiality of the scene is underlined by the presence of an alternative costume in the shape of Roman helmets lying on a table behind him (1631, and c. 1631).
It would, of course, be possible to interpret the enormous variety of roles and poses in Rembrandt's self-portraiture psychologically, seeing them as examples of megalomaniacal wishful thinking, or as the sign of a frustrated social climber, or as a form of imaginative compensation for the suffering he experienced during various critical periods of his life. Some of this may well be true. Beyond mere wish-fulfilment, however, the majority of the approximately ninety self-portraits show Rembrandt mentally reflecting on social structures whose new permeability, flexibility and dynamism were the result of the bourgeois revolution in the Netherlands. Economic aspects played an important role here, too, although not in the superficial sense of a trademark representing the artist's business interest in marketing his own subjectivity, as Svetlana Alpers has suggested.153 Rembrandt's work elucidated the nature of macro-economic structures to the individual who sought an imaginative grasp of the new social reality.

Portrait of the Artist at His Easel
Oil on canvas, 111 x 90 cm
Musee du Louvre, Paris


In his final self-portrait, executed in 1669 (Cologne), Rembrandt appears stricken by age, stooping, in a state of melancholic mirth. This reverts to the subject of his early physiognomic studies; and yet here, for the first time, Rembrandt's imagined role appears consistent with his real mood. Appearances are deceptive here too, however; it would hardlv be permissible to assume the painting represented a proclamation of Rembrandt's true state of mind. For once again, Rembrandt presents us with a visual puzzle, disclosing no more than he conceals. Albert Blankert has found evidence to suggest that Rembrandt portrayed himself here as the Greek painter Zeuxis, after an anecdote related by Karel van Mander: "It is said that Zeuxis put an end to his own life by suffocating on his own excessive laughter one day while painting the likeness of a funny old wrinkled woman... It was this which the poet meant when he wrote: 'Are you laughing too much again? Or are you trying to emulate the painter who laughed himself to death?"

Oil on canvas, 59 x 51 cm
Mauritshuis, The Hague



On the left of the self-portrait there is the blurred shape of a face, probably the likeness of an old woman. The patches of light on the shaft and pommel of the mahlstick denote a studio setting.
Considering the large number of portraits he executed of himself in different roles, very few show Rembrandt at work, or even suggest the nature of his profession. Apart from two self-portraits executed in 1636 and 1648, one of which shows him from the side, drawing (with Saskia in the background), while the other shows a frontal view of him alone, engaged in the same activity, but standing near a window in a dark room, only two paintings from his later period refer to his work as an artist (1660 and 1667/68). But here, too, the artist concentrates on rendering the face, while his painting utensils are only vaguely suggested. In one of the paintings, in which Rembrandt shows himself actually working at the canvas, his utensils are just visible in the darkness of the setting; in the other, where he seems poised between two bouts of work, his brush and palette have been rendered immaterial to the point of transparency by repeatedly scraping them with the brush and rubbing in left-over paint, while the face, marked by age, is trenchantly modelled in pastose layers of strong colour. The self-portrait in the Frick Collection, showing him sitting majestically on his throne, was probably conceived as a "portrait histone" (portrait showing the sitter in significant historic costume). Here, too, Rembrandt appears to have adopted a role: the ruler casually holding up a sceptre in his left hand, which is resting on the armrest of his throne. However, since the sceptre can hardly be distinguished from a mahlstick, the impression that we are looking at a self-portrait showing Rembrandt as a painter is probably justified.
Unlike Aert dc Gelder, who treated the Zeuxis subject (1685) as a full historical canvas, Rembrandt's self-portrait (at Cologne), by keeping direct allusion to the story itself to a minimum, places emphasis on the representation of the face. The un-reflected and disrespectful satirical treatment of deformity has vanished under Rembrandt's treatment; what remains is a vulnerable depiction of the ugliness age has brought to his own features. Rembrandt's laughter does not poke fun at anybody, not even at himself. Too exhausted even to defy his own frailty, it is an expression of the stoic equanimity with which he resigned himself to approaching death.

Self-Portrait as Zeuxis
Oil on canvas, 82,5 x 65 cm
Wallraf-Richartz Museum, Cologne

Discuss Art

Please note: site admin does not answer any questions. This is our readers discussion only.

| privacy