The self-portrait, an autobiography in paint, began in fifteenth-century Florence when artists first asserted their identity by placing their own image, as observer or participant, into religious and historical narratives. As the artist gained social status, his image increased in importance. Botticelli’s handsome, even arrogant, appearance on the extreme right in The Adoration of the Magi (1475) anticipated by several centuries the imposing self-portraits of two formally dressed arch-rivals, the Byronically dashing Delacroix (1839) and the defiantly severe Ingres (1858).

The self-portrait is at once a portrayal of character, projection of personality and definition of selfhood, a statement of individuality and self-awareness, an affirmation that the artist is worthy of fame and deserving of remembrance. It includes moral content, psychological revelations and symbolic attributes, which suggest both intellect and technical...

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