Self Portrait 1638 Gian Lorenzo Bernini Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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The painting entitled Self Portrait 1638, sometimes known as Self-Portrait of a Mature Man, is a work in oil on canvas.

It was painted around 1638 when the artist was aged 40 years old. Bernini has captured himself sitting side on to the viewer with the face turned at a slight angle. The expression is relaxed and neutral, with kind, soft eyes and a slightly hollow cheek.

A very limited palette of colour has been used in this painting, with only shades of brown and cream chosen. It seems that the clothing and background are of little importance to Bernini as each has no detail at all, and the collar has been painted with a single, wide stroke of the brush with little shape and no texture.

This does not typify the elaborate, emotive Baroque style Bernini is famous for. Careful attention has been paid to the lights and shadows of the face, however, and the the facial features are strong and interesting. The longer hair style, neatly curled moustache and trimmed beard give the audience some insight into the fashion of the day.

Gian Lorenzo Bernini was arguably one of the greatest sculptures of the 17th century and is credited with being a founder of the Baroque movement in art. He did complete some paintings during his career, but this was not his primary media and so there are not many examples of his paintings in existence.

In his early twenties Bernini became fascinated with human faces and the different emotions they expressed. He began to study the faces of all the people around him very closely, and he also looked in the mirror at his own reflection examining the lines and shapes he saw. This interest continued over the years and the self-portraits Bernini created as time passed show how the artist aged and became better at his skill.

In the same year, another self-portrait was completed that is very similar to this one, but the angle of the head is a little different as is the intensity of the stare. The restricted colour palette is the same, but a little more detail has been added to the collar. These two paintings can be compared to the self-self-portrait Bernini completed in 1615 when he just 17 years old.

This Portrait of a Young Man was drawn in chalk. The clothing in this drawing has a lot more detail, and the lips are not lifelike, but the resemblance and angle has been captured well. As Bernini aged, he drew himself again aged 67. The artist is sitting in a similar position, and the eyes are staring deep into the soul of the viewer in the same way as in the Portrait of a Mature Man. In the later drawing, the lines of the more elderly man can be seen and the greying of the hair and beard are visible, however the same neutral expression and air of concentration are there.