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Self Portrait

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Self-portrait at twenty -eight years old with a fur collar coat on is a painting on a wood panel by a renowned German painter Albrecht Durer. Painted just before his twenty- ninth birthday early in 1500 the painting remains historical. It completes his series of self-portrait paintings. The painting is the most iconic, personal, and complex of the three self-portrait paintings he made. The painting, known for its directness with the viewer and for its apparent confrontation with them is very symbolic. Let us have a look at this piece of art in details, and trace its history and peculiarities.

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The use of brown tones, which appears against a plain black background, gives the painting a somber mood. The painting is sixty-six point three by forty nine centimeters in size. It is painted on wood panel using oil. The size is big enough and does not require the viewer to be close enough to understand the work. The dark background enhances the clarity of the painting; hence, it can be seen fairly well from a distance. Albrecht painted the artwork using oil paints on a wood panel. The painter intended many people to look at his painting at a time. The direct eyesight makes the artwork directly look at each person in a crowd. The black background enhances the photographs clarity making the viewer focus more on the person portrayed, than on the place where he was. The size of the painting also indicates it as the one which is meant for many people to look at it any time.

The art piece instills a somber mood. It has significant directness and an utmost apparent confrontation. The lack of a specific background leaves the viewer with no idea of the place or time. It also instills a picture of holiness or someone holly offering blessing. The eyes look compassionate and loving. The inflexibility of his face and the impersonal dignity of not a human face but a mask hide the passion and anguish within him.

The artist’s intensions were to instill a somber mood in the viewers of his artwork. Through this somber mood, the viewers see him as holly and compassionate person. He also looks focused on something in his mind, maybe an idea or something very specific. The painting also gives the impression of a holly or blessed person.

This article is typical to the culture in which it originated. This is because in the fifteen hundreds’ European men kept long hairs and some even braided them. Both men and women put on brown coats on cold days and nights. This clearly represents the culture of the European people living in the fifteen hundred’s after the death of Christ. The painting does not have any social and or religious functions. It was a complex self-made portrait painting displaying and trying to instill a somber mood on the viewers. The painter seems to have found a way of attracting the viewer’s attention and maintains it with an eye contact. The emotionless face seems more of a face behind a mask rather than a man’s face.

The dark shades put behind Duer appear as if they were floating in space. This indicates that the portrait has a highly symbolic meaning to a certain culture. Duer used an innovative and complex touch and tone, as opposed to the light tone used in his previous two portraits. The painting’s geometrical analysis of its composition shows that it has a rather rigid symmetry. Several highlights appear assigned very close to the midline. The head is deflected right in the center. His eyes are not in the middle and the strands of his hair fall differently on the sides of his head while the eyes seem slightly deflected to the left. During the years the painting was made, a frontal pose was considered as exceptional for a secular painting. Full frontal poses were still unusual with the exception of having directives from authorities. This is a painting of Duer when he was just turning twenty-nine, on the offset of fourteen hundred AD and the onset of fifteen hundred AD marking his transformation from childhood to adulthood. The age twenty-eight marked the transition from childhood maturity. We see him turning to a more mature, self-conscious person through the painting. The article therefore celebrates the turning of an artist to maturity and the coming in of the new millennium. The Renaissance humanistic scholar Conrad who happened to include Duer may have done so to mark the celebration of saeculum.

The painting is a reflective of that point of history even though not to a great extent. The outfit in the painting clearly represents the time in history were they were common. The hairstyle portrayed also symbolizes the time of the painting. The fact that the painter did not put a background in his painting limits our decision of where and when it happened, as the black background makes us focus more on the person in the portrait.

The painting is far more different from the first and second self-portraits. It is not only direct as the previous two portraits, but also it has an apparent confrontation with the person viewing it. It is also different by the fact that it is highly symmetrical and lacks a definite background. The painting was in a frontal view a difference from its predecessors. The painting is more symbolic than the first and second paintings. The artist chooses to present himself in a style that recalls the depiction of Jesus Christ. An interpretation suggested that he was imitating Christ. Some interpretations put it as the writer’s self-proclamation as a creator, while others indicate that the painting was an acknowledgement of the artist’s talent in painting to God. He portrays himself with similar poses to Christ. However, historians put it forward, that the portrait bears similar characteristics to his previous self-portrait in the prominence of his eyes, the narrowness of his mouth, the narrowness of the upper lip, the shape of the nose and the distance between his nose and mouth.

The intensions of the artist at this point are not that clear. This is because there is a contradicting idea about those who see the portrait as an imitation of Jesus Christ with those who see it as a normal portrait in terms of the eyes, the nose, the distance between the eyes and the nose, and the distance between the nose and the mouth. However, the painting looks more as an imitation of Christ with its similarity to Hans Memling’s painting of blessing of Christ in the late fifteenth century.

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In conclusion it will be appropriate to say that Duer probably donated or sold the portrait to Nuremberg city. Historians report its displacement to the city just before the artist’s death in 1528 until the year 1805 when the Bavarian collection of royal historical materials bought it. The current location of the painting is in Alta Pinakothek in Munich, Germany. Nuremberg had a copy of the portrait made, replacing the old one. Through his portraits Duer appears as a person who was very conscious of his self-image.

So, we have made a full analysis of the piece of art by German painter Albrecht Durer, titled Self Portrait. The painting is known for its directness with the viewer and ability to convey the peculiarities of the epoch.

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