Research point: Artists’ self-portraits


There are some wonderful examples of self portraits by such luminaries as Van Gogh, Rembrandt and others of that ilk.  I was fascinated with the jewel-like self0portrait below by Parmigianino, which really shows off his skill and technique. 

Parmigianino – Self-portrait in convex mirror

This was painted on a convex specially made wooden support in the 1520’s and in the right hand side of the painting you can see the reflection of the actual frame – already put into the painting.  It is such a clever work of art – the background is muted but mysterious, there is a doorway, where does it lead to? The ceiling creates a halo around him and his skilful hand is displayed in the extreme foreground for all his admirers to see and envy. Wonderful.

We are asked to look at the work of Tracey Emin in the research for this post. 

Tracey Emin ‘I’ve got it all’

You can’t really talk about Tracey Emin without mentioning that damned ‘My Bed’ installation she did back in the Nineties.  I’m afraid I’m not much of a fan and there are others who feel similarly. When I read * that she compared her ‘My Bed’ to the work of J. M. W. Turner, I was rather taken aback at her audacity.

On the other hand …

Jenny Saville

Jenny Saville – Branded (1992)

Jenny Saville’s uncompromising paintings of the female body and in particular her own nude self-portraits are honest and powerful.  The early work above, painted in 1992, features words by the French feminist Luce Irigaray all over the body. More recently Ms Saville spent a great deal of time working on a self-portrait with direct reference to the work of Rembrandt and in her case, she has used her vast technical knowledge and skill to marry with that of the great master.

Jenny Saville’s self-portrait / Rembrandt’s self-portrait (screen shot from video – credit below)

Sheng Qi

Sheng Qi – Memories (Me) 2000

The first thing you want to know when looking at this work is what happened to his finger, what’s the story behind that? I discovered he cut off the little finger of his left hand in protest about the events of Tiananmen Square in 1989.   His hand features in a lot of his powerful paintings and shows us how self-portraiture is not restricted to the face.

Bibliography – all accessed 07/10/2019

Video – Parmigianino

Tracy Emin – mention



Jenny Saville:


Sheng Qi:


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