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Self-portrait in Spherical Mirror, 1950

There is probably no artist who pictured themselves as often as Rembrandt van Rijn did. About 40 of his self-portraits are known. But Escher too was no stranger to self-portraits. Between 1917 and 1950 he produced 12 of them, several while being reflected in a spherical mirror. Looking in the mirror he pictures his own image, the way he sees it, but also the way he wants it to be seen. A self-portrait is, like all artworks based on reality, a perspective on this reality. That is particularly the case with Escher. The viewer wants to see the artist, but has to deal with the version the artist wishes to present of himself at that particular point in time.

This self-portrait in a spherical mirror is the last of four spherical ones as well as the last self-portrait Escher produced. In his earlier self-portraits he had shown a development from uncertain young man to self-assured artist and from technically simple to a dazzling command of the graphic arts. But in this last self-portrait he takes a few steps back. It is a small and plain spherical mirror image featuring just the artist, his studio, his paper and his hands. Particularly his hands. As though he is saying: this is it. This is the heart of the matter. These are my tools. Looking back, this plainness and quietness seem ironic: in April 1950, Escher was on the brink of his international breakthrough. A breakthrough he welcomed but which overwhelmed him too.

You can read more about this self-reflection in ‘Self-portraits 1917-1950’, a story by former curator Micky Piller.

More Escher today