Self-Portrait

Albrecht Durer, Self-Portrait (1500)

“Just as an eye, small as it might be, ‘can receive the image of a great mountain,’ the creature that sees himself in God sees himself as a reflection of his power, a finite image that has his features, his qualities, his creative power. According to the beautiful expression of the current-day French philosopher Pierre Magnard, ‘man is a self-portrait of God.’

The famous Self-Portrait, 1500, in which Albrecht Durer (1471-1528) painted himself frontally with features traditionally associated with Christ, is perhaps the best expression of this philosophical turning point whereby the individual, the reflection and image of God, discovers himself as an active subject, in a representation both historic and transfigured. Christ, mediator between finite and infinite, gives over his human face to the painter: a fusion of the creature and his model that would be sacrilegious if it did not express wonder in the act of faith. …

The self-portrait emerged from the portrait at a historical moment when the sovereignty of the artist was being affirmed. No longer a simple artisan capable of reproducing a repertory of forms inherited from the past, the artist came to be considered a real and true creator and emulator of God.”

The Mirror: A History, Sabine Melchoir-Bonnet

Melchoir-Bonnet explains that Durer broke with tradition “in order to make tangible, in a literal sense, the identity of the Christian, a reflection of the divine model that must be forged according to the imitation of Jesus Christ. In reproducing the particularities of his own face down to the smallest detail, Durer wanted to leave no doubt as to his own identity, and thus affirm the powers of the artist capable of producing a likeness. The painting offers both the historical reality of his presence in the world and the reality of mystical fusion anticipating the body of glory, restored in its likeness on account of the Incarnation.”

She says this work “precisely illustrates” Gal. 2:20, “I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me”: and 2 Cor. 3:18, “We all, with faces unveiled, reflect, as in a mirror, the glory of the Lord.”

She adds, “In the same vein, Martin Luther affirms that all loyal followers can say, ‘I am Christ.’ ” No reference is given for this quote.

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10 Comments on “Self-Portrait

  1. Hello Amelo,

    Thanks for stopping by. I cannot claim this analysis. It’s from a fascinating book about the history of the mirror. In this section the author is talking about how Rennaisance thinking replaced Medieval ideas about self-reflection.

    I’ll take a look at your article. I’ve got a couple old Dali reprints, one of which I cannot find reproductions of anywhere.

  2. Melchoir-Bonnet explains that Durer broke with tradition “in order to make tangible, in a literal sense, the identity of the Christian, a reflection of the divine model that must be forged according to the imitation of Jesus Christ. In reproducing the particularities of his own face down to the smallest detail, Durer wanted to leave no doubt as to his own identity, and thus affirm the powers of the artist capable of producing a likeness. The painting offers both the historical reality of his presence in the world and the reality of mystical fusion anticipating the body of glory, restored in its likeness on account of the Incarnation.”

    She says this work “precisely illustrates” Gal. 2:20, “I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me”: and 2 Cor. 3:18, “We all, with faces unveiled, reflect, as in a mirror, the glory of the Lord.”

    She adds, “In the same vein, Martin Luther affirms that all loyal followers can say, ‘I am Christ.’ ” No reference is given for this quote.

  3. The further comment is even more illuminating, thanks! I think you should add it to your post!

    Saludos,

    Andrés

  4. I was thinking the same thing Amelo. Thanks for the nudge.

  5. This opens all kinds of interesting questions… about who can acceptably do such a portrait (the poor, the ethnic, the young, the old, women). You see what I mean.

  6. Oh, that is delicious, L.L. I am picturing myself with a beard!

    Seriously, how would one paint that? I’ll have to ponder it. Something to discuss with our artist friends.

  7. Good point. My name means “follower of Christ,” so that’s a good start.

    I envision Christ’s baptism. A self portrait of me coming up out of the water with a dove descending and a symbol for the Father. Now that does sound a bit sacreligious.

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