Self-Portrait Nude

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Durer, Self-Portrait Nude, 1471-1528
By ELIZABETH ELLIS

In the first full-length nude self-study, Durer portrays himself in only a hairnet or cap. There are two focus points in his nude drawing:  Durer's face and his, ah-hem, genitals capture the gaze. His muscles bulge as his gaze travels beyond the painting, a simple background giving greater attention to the whorls of lines and shadows covering his body.

What's perhaps rather ironic about his portrayal of himself is that Durer was sick in 1503, when he was creating this peace, and yet drew himself as a powerful and bold younger man. Only his face, eyes slightly sunken in and cheeks hollowed, give away any hints of sickness. Of course, Durer's obsession with drawing himself as slightly better than ideal came from even before the Self-Portrait Nude. His body and pose in Self-Portrait Nude is reminiscent of Apollo from Durer's earlier work, Apollo and Diana. In addition to this idea of being one of the gods, the practice of imitatio Christi was already popular in Europe, where artists changed their own features to take on the features of Christ.

In previous works, Durer had changed the color of his hair, the shape of his face, and placed his arms in the symbol of blessing, all to mimic Christ and bring holiness and a sense of immortality to his works and himself. The pride behind using imitation Christ fills all of Durer's works, from Adam and Eve (The Fall of Man), where Durer inserted his cartellino into the painting, to Self-Portrait, where Durer shows himself practically as Christ. His hair is darkened, and split into the style of Jesus Christ, and he wears luxurious furs. To bring all of this together in reference to his Self-Portrait Nude, I believe that rather than focusing on correct proportions, Durer gave into his ego when creating this carving. Durer drew what he knew, or thought, rather than what he saw in the mirror. 

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