​Hidden Self Portraits
Robyn Turk

For many centuries, artists have included self portraits in paintings in which the portrait was not the main subject. Artists have done this for many different reasons, and in many different ways. Some artists choose to hide their self portraits, while others make the portraits very obvious; some choose to abstract their portraits; and some artists don’t physically paint a portrait of themselves, but make the subject represent themselves through emotions and meanings.

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio was a famous painter from the Baroque
period, which lasted from 1590 through 1720. Caravaggio technique of tenebrism, or dramatic illumination of form and harsh contrast in lighting.Caravaggio-selfportrait-youngbacchus.jpg
In 1596, C
Caravaggio, The Young Bacchus, 83x95cm
aravaggio painted The Young Bacchus. Bacchus is the Roman God of wine. In the painting, Caravaggio depicts Bacchus as a teenager, surrounded by fruit and wine. The figure wears a white sheet draped over his left arm and body, and a headdress made of leaves. The figure is illuminated, as if the image was a photograph taken with a flash. The facial expression of Bacchus is unclear, and could be interpreted to have a number of different meanings.
Towards the bottoms left of the painting is a pitcher of wine a small reflection of light on it. Inside this reflection is a tiny portrait of Caravaggio. By including this small portrait of himself, Caravaggio is suggesting that he had been sitting there with Bacchus at this moment in

which the picture occurs. This makes the viewer question where they are while they are looking at the painting. Is the viewer Caravaggio? Is the viewer in between Bacchus and Caravaggio? A major aspect of the Baroque period was this confusion which left a lot for the viewer to determine, so Caravaggio did this purposefully.

copy-of-dalis-the-persistence-of-memory.jpgSalvador Dali (1904 - 1989) was a painter during the Surrealist movement. Surrealism, or “beyond reality,” is an art movement that began after the first world war and showed scenes that reflected dreams and the subconscious mind. Surrealist paintings will often have misplaced or disproportional objects. Most of Dali’s paintings are landscapes of his home, Catalonia, Spain, but he includes objects that don’t fit into the landscapes.In 1931, Dali painted The Persistence of Memory. The background is Dali’s usual type of landscape with a high horizon line and a body of water and mountains in the horizon. In the left foreground is a box whose perspective doesn’t match the rest of the painting. On the box are a melting clock and a tree limb with another melting clock hanging from it. In the center of the painting is a rolle up sheet of cavas with a closed
Dali, The Persistence of Memory, 24.1x33cm
eye and another melting clock on the top. This canvas is Dali’s portrait of himself. The fact that his portrait is very out of form and abstracted plays in with the Surrealist ideas. It does not make a lot of sense, and seems to be something found in a dream.

Michelangelo (1475 – 1564) was an Italian Renaissance artist. Although Michelangelo is very well known for his numerous marble sculptures, he was also a talented painter. One of his most famous paintings is The Last Judgment, which was one of his frescos on tmichelangeloface-closeup.jpghe wall of the Sistine Chapel in Rome, Italy.
Michelangelo, The Last Judgement, 1370x1200cm

Michelangelo painted The Last Judgment in 1541. The fresco depicts both the second coming of Christ and the apocalypse. Christ is in the middle an towards the top of the image, which follows the traditional hierarchtic scale from Roman and Byzantine art. Christ is judging the people around him, and deciding where to send them once they die. Michelangelo put a portrait of himself under Christ and to the right. It is a small image of only his face in a piece of fabric another figure is holding. This portrait of Michelangelo is very subtle, and few viewers notice it easily.
Michelangelo included himself in a biblical painting, and in doing so, he is comparing himself to other biblical characters. Michelangelo may have wanted to leave a portrait of himself on the wall of a historical church because he wanted people to see the artist for hundreds of years after his time.

Pablo Picasso (1881 – 1973) was one of the inventors of the post WWI art movement, Cubism. Picasso was born in Malaga, Spain, and began painting at the age of eight. Although he was trained to paint realistically as a child, Picasso rejected all traditional painting styles as an adult. He helped Georges Braque to create Cubism in 1907. Cubism is usually done in a monochromatic color scheme, and will either have its subject broken up into geometric forms as if it is being viewed from many angles at once, or a few objects would be put together in geometric forms.guernica.jpg
Picasso, Guernica, 349x776cm
In 1937, Picasso painted one of his most well known artworks, Guernica. Guernica depicts the bombing of a town called Guernica by German and Italian warplanes in 1937. Picasso used his Cubist techniques to portray the broken, suffering town and the effects of this incident. Bodies are bent in unrealistic shapes and the faces are abstracted and making painful expressions. The harsh lighting and tortured figures illustrate the emotions Picasso tried to express. In the bottom right corner, Picasso included an abstracted portrait of himself. By including himself in a painting that shows such a tragedy and suffering, Picasso may have been implying that he, too, felt like this broken town. His facial expression fits in with the rest of the faces in the painting; twisted and distressed.

Willem de Kooning, Woman I, 192.7x147.3cm
Willem de Kooning (1904 – 1997) was a Dutch Abstract Expressionist artist. Abstract Expressionism began after World War Two, and emphasized spontaneous subconscious creation. Artists would throw the paint around the canvas and use non-art materials to apply the paint. Artists would express their feelings during the process of making the art by their harsh means of creating their art.

Willem de Kooning painted Woman I in 1952. The subject of Woman I is an abstracted figure of a woman, and there is no visible portrait of de Kooning. The painting hides a portrait of de Kooning in an emotional manner; de Kooning painted Woman I to express “the woman inside himself.” Although at first a viewer would assume that de Kooning was trying to insult women with his painting, he was really just showing how he thought that women felt. He used art to express anxiety, chaos, and confusion.

Jan van Eyck, Arnolfini Wedding Portrait, 82.2x60cm
Jan van Eyck (1385 – 1441) was a Flemish Renaissance painter during the fifteenth century.Van Eyck is known to have invented oil paint, which has since been a popular medium for artists. He mostly painted artworks commissioned by different patrons, so he didn’t usually choose his subject matter.ArnolfiniMirror.jpg
Jan van Eyck painted The Arnolfini Wedding Portrait in 1434. This portrait was commissioned by Giovanni Arnolfini to commemorate his wedding.On the far wall of the room in the painting is a small mirror, and in the mirror is a portrait of van Eyck painting the couple. The Arnolfini Wedding
Portrait is a historical record of an actual event, so van Eyck is showing that he was actually present at the moment this image is taking place. Van Eyck showed every small detail and everything he saw, so he showed even what he saw in the mirror on the wall, which was himself painting the couple.

Self portraits are not always the main focus of an artwork, but they always have meaning and reasons behind them. The fact that a self portrait is hidden may also symbolize an idea, an emphasis of a specific art movement, or recognition for the artist. Artists have found many different creative ways to hide their portraits in their art.