Use of Self Images in Baroque Art Essay

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Self-Images in Baroque Art




'Baroque' is a word that is employed to describe 17th- and early 18th- century European art. The art form signified a shift from Renaissance art's classism and linearity (though a few artists from that period carried on with creating artworks in the older style). Baroque was also characterized by a shift towards drama, motion, theatricality, unpredictability, and impulse. This style thrived in many areas of the European continent including Italy, Spain, Flanders, and the Netherlands, and was marked by some common elements despite the existence of major distinctions between regions and artists. Baroque sculptures and paintings were structured around unpredictable diagonal lines, instead of the traditional pyramid or triangle.[footnoteRef:1] Self-portraits grew into a progressively ambitious form that took the aspects of self-awareness and self-promotion to new heights.[footnoteRef:2] In this paper, three Baroque self-images will be discussed, namely, Rembrandt, 1660; Salvatore Rosa, 1647; and Anthony van Dyck, 1620-21. [1: Fichner-Rathus, Lois. Foundations of Art and Design: An Enhanced Media Edition. Cengage Learning, 2011. p.272] [2: Harris, Ann Sutherland. Seventeenth-century art and architecture. Laurence King Publishing, 2005. p.341]



Rembrandt (Rembrandt van Rijn) Self-portrait 1660



Rembrandt's portrayal of himself, dated 1660, resulted from almost forty years of profound self-scrutiny wherein the artist created a total of forty known self-portraits, in addition to sketched and etched ones. The painter's initial examinations of the expressive features of himself and other people led to his later-life self-portrait's unfiltered realism. The portrait resonates in artistic as well as autobiographical terms. Rembrandt has depicted his image reflected from a mirror -- this technique explains his facial features' noticeable asymmetry, especially his mouth and eyes, which he decided not to alter. The facial furrows and wrinkles, as well as his sagging jaws and rough complexion, are true to his 54-year-old self.[footnoteRef:3] [3: Galitz, Kathryn Calley, and Thomas P. Campbell. 2016. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: masterpiece paintings. p.289]



The painter developed his facial characteristics swiftly with the freedom of a painter, with viable brushwork putting his features in shade and light, wet-on-wet highlights, and the broader-brushed cloak having reflected streaks of color. The honest, unrelenting approach portrayed in the art that chronicles the last ten years of Rembrandt's life might hint at the painter's changed circumstances, particularly his bankruptcy in 1658, or his modified idea of portraiture's nature.[footnoteRef:4] [4: Ibid]



The artist has carried over his religious artworks' spiritual aura into the later self-portraits using the very means that may be termed a psychology of light. Shade and light do not conflict with one another in the 1660 portrait. Rather, they merge subtly and softly, and the reconciliation generates the pictorial equivalent of serenity. The prevalent ambience may be considered one of quiet meditation of logical acquiescence or reflective recall; in fact, through silence, one can hear an entire array of emotions. Rembrandt portrayed himself as a strong and dignified personality -- the self-portrait summarizes the multitude of professional and stylistic concerns he was occupied with in the course of his artistic career. His distinctive application of light seems clear, and the firm brushstrokes indicate his poise and self-confidence. From his meticulous emphasis on facial expression, the artist's interest in baring humanity's soul is apparent. The indefinite setting and controlled usage of light are factors contributing to this emphasis.[footnoteRef:5] [5: Kleiner, Fred S. Gardner's Art through the Ages: Backpack Edition, Book F: Non-Western Art Since 1300. Cengage Learning, 2015. p.744]



Rembrandt sketched, etched and painted such a large number of self-images that alterations in the artist's appearance call for an examination of his many moods through comparison of those images. These images may be read biographically, as Rembrandt leaves us no option but to read it in this light, by directly confronting the viewer.
The self-portrait of 1660 was completed when the painter had gone broke following several years' success. He had only just been forced to auction of some personal assets, including his expansive Sint-Anthoniesbreestraat house, to satisfy creditors. The painting's most striking feature would be the deep-set, wise eyes of the painter, which bore into our eyes, expressing the wisdom he attained through his experiences in life. But the interpretation of any artwork based on real-life events transpiring in the artist's life might be misleading, especially in case of a highly romanticized life like that of Rembrandt's. Prior to cleaning during restoration, the portrait exuded an intense brooding quality owing to thick discolored varnish layers. After the varnish's removal, the rich flesh tones instantaneously improved viewers' reading of the artist's expression. Rembrandt's head is well-illuminated by a light that also highlights his left shoulder as well as, to some degree, his roughly sketched clasped hands.[footnoteRef:6] [6: "Self-Portrait." 2016. Accessed September 19, 2016. http://www.nga.gov/content/ngaweb/Collection/highlights/highlight79.html.]



The roughly-dozen self-portraits which may be traced back to all decades of the illustrious painter's career are significantly divergent in their method, composition, and expression. The late depictions show broad paint applications, expressing a frank record of Rembrandt's aging facial features. The artwork is of remarkable candor and good quality, particularly the face. Initially, the hat and bust may have conveyed a solider feel of volume, in line with the feel that continues to be experienced when one looks at the head. Rembrandt's hat has been painted over a relatively smaller cap. The hat's flat impression isn't an outcome of repainting (early on into the project) but of darkening that occurs naturally. Autoradiographs reveal hints of hat modeling and folds. The gray background is seen in the gown or coat, with hints of extensive over-cleaning of the brown layer. Hence, a rather broad look at the bust may mislead the viewer. Although broad brushstrokes have been utilized for Rembrandt's work clothes, with local highlights being suggested in the numerous colors, the overall bust would seem well-rounded. The steady light falling from the left affords substance to lose folds which descend from the painter's shoulders. The material's fullness indicates the outfit was a long work gown, worn atop a red-colored waistcoat and a doublet having an upturned collar.[footnoteRef:7] [7: "Self-Portrait - the Met." Accessed September 19, 2016. http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search.]



Anthony van Dyck Self-portrait 1620-21



Van Dyck's self-portrait depicts a polished gentleman. The oil-painted portrait on canvas in no way suggests the featured individual's profession. This portrait is presumed to date back to the painter's London visit in winter 1620 -- 21. It was definitely completed prior to his leaving his hometown Antwerp, and going to Italy during the 1621 autumn season. That this artist's father was a fine fabrics merchant partially accounts for his fondness for rich clothing (according to early biographer, Bellori) and possibly for his sophisticated imageries of drapery. Van Dyck was of small stature and quite young, with barely any beard apparent. The boy in the portrait is surrounded by an aura of grave modesty and nobility. His etiquette seems lordly and nothing like that of a commoner. The young van Dyck looks impressive in rich court attire.[footnoteRef:8] [8: Ibid ]



This self-portrait which is featured in New York's Metropolitan Museum counts among the first paintings by van Dyck. He portrays himself….....

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Bibliography


Bohn, Babette, and James M. Saslow. A companion to Renaissance and Baroque Art. Vol. 29. John Wiley & Sons, 2012.

Fichner-Rathus, Lois. Foundations of Art and Design: An Enhanced Media Edition. Cengage Learning, 2011. p.272

Galitz, Kathryn Calley, and Thomas P. Campbell. 2016. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: masterpiece paintings. p.289

Harris, Ann Sutherland. Seventeenth-century art and architecture. Laurence King Publishing, 2005.

Kleiner, Fred S. Gardner's Art through the Ages: Backpack Edition, Book F: Non-Western Art Since 1300. Cengage Learning, 2015. p.744

Roworth, Wendy Wassyng. "The consolations of friendship: Salvator Rosa's self-portrait for Giovanni Battista Ricciardi." Metropolitan Museum Journal 23 (1988): 103-124.

"Self-Portrait." 2016. Accessed September 19, 2016. http://www.nga.gov/content/ngaweb/Collection/highlights/highlight79.html.

"Self-Portrait - the Met." Accessed September 19, 2016. http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/436258.

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