Self Portrait at the Age of Twenty Eight

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Albrecht Durer, Self Portrait at the Age of Twenty Eight, 1500 
By EMMA SHAPIRO

Albrecht Durer's Self  Portrait at the Age of Twenty Eight outwardly highlights his arrogant self-confidence. Durer earned his favorable reputation as an artist in his early twenties. Durer became one of the most influential artists of the Northern Renaissance. His revolutionary woodcuts became his most noteworthy medium, followed by prints, altarpieces, portraits, watercolours and books.  Judging by the portrayal of himself as Christ in his Self Portrait in 1500, perhaps the early prodigious reviews boosted his morale to a slight extreme.

Durer inscribed his initials "AD" into the left hand side of the portrait, along with text reading "I, Albrecht Durer of Nurembourg, painted myself thus, with undying colours, at the age of twenty-eight years." In this he outwardly states his belief in his own immortality, whether that be in a physical presence or permanent fame. He also played with his orientation in order to emphasize a similar ideal. In most self-portraits during the time period artists positioned themselves in a three-quarters view, but Durer faces directly forward, and zooms in on his image. He also eliminates a background, stressing his self importance.

Durer fashions his body as a triangle, playing with the presence of the trinity within himself. He believed that at the age of twenty-eight he was at a prime. The portrait testifies to this by his supreme artistic expertise. His right hand raises slightly, toying with his seemingly expensive, powerfully red, fur coat. In Becoming a Knowledgeable Artist the author states that "The hand is the instrument with which the right-handed Durer created his art. The artist shows off his long, graceful fingers". In his hand, we see realistic bones and veins. Joachim Camerarius, a German physician and humanist scholar, described Durer saying "Nature gave him a build and a bodily development that, as is right and proper, fit supremely well with the magnificent spirit it encloses...He has an expressive head, glittering eyes, an attractive nose, which the Greeks would call perfect, a somewhat long neck, a broad chest, a taut body, powerful thighs, firm legs; but a finer thing than his fingers have ever seen". Everything about this painting screams self obsessed. Although accounts such as Joachim's suggest his deserving of such praise, his haughty advertisement of his perfection within his paintings is less than admirable.

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