Back in the Dutch Golden Age there was no such thing as a smartphone, but selfies did exist in a way.
A lot of artists in the 17th century painted self-portraits, not only as portraits of themselves, but also as an example of the beautiful art that they could make.
However, they were reserved to highly trained artists who thought long and hard about every aspect of their painting.
The Mauritshuis museum in The Hague currently has an exhibition on these painters, including Rembrandt, who created nearly one hundred self-portraits during his lifetime.
Ariane van Suchtelen, curator: “A lot of artists in the 17th century painted self-portraits, not only as portraits of themselves, but also as an example of the beautiful art that they could make. For instance, Rembrandt was very famous for his very virtuoso sketchy way of painting. If you would buy a self-portrait by Rembrandt, you would not only have a portrait of this famous artist but also an example of what he could do, what he was famous for – his art.”
Seventeenth century artists used mirrors to capture their images. One striking self-portrait features a classic selfie pose, with the artist staring over his right shoulder out of the frame.
Emilie Gordenker, Mauritshuis director: “So behind me is this fantastic self-portrait by someone named Voskuyl, he’s not a household name, he didn’t produce very much. And what he does is, you can see that he’s looking very hard at himself in a mirror. You can see that very concentrated look at one point. And he brings out all these little details, like his beard or the little embroidery on his shirt.”
The exhibition runs until January 3. It features 27 self-portraits by artists including Rembrandt’s students Carel Fabritius and Judith Leyster.