Identity and the PortraitReading Key Monuments:Albert Elsen, “The Portrait in The Destruction of aPainting, Sculpture, and Monument to Joseph Stalin,Photography” from The Purposes Budapest, Hungary, Octoberof Art, 319-338. 23, 1956. Head of Roman Patrician,Key Terms/Concepts: realism, Marble, c. 75-50 BCE.verism, idealism, agency, identity, Unknown Artist, Posthumousself-portrait. Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I, 1604 (under painting), 18th century (later additions). Do-Ho Suh, Uni-Forms/s: Self- Portrait/s: My 39 Years, 2006. Auguste Rodin, Head of Baudelaire, 1892.
What is a Portrait?“A likeness of a person, especially one showing theface, that is created by a painter or photographer.”--American Heritage Dictionary“What is the art of Portrait Painting? It is therepresentation of a real individual, or part of hisbody only; it is the reproduction of an image; it isthe art of presenting, on the first glance of the eye,the form of a man by traits, which would beimpossible to convey in words.”--J.C. Lavater
What is a Portrait?1. A “portrait” must depict a specific human subject.2. A “portrait” must resemble the human subject.3. The viewer must be able to recognize the subject of a “portrait” as a specific person.We assume that something is a portrait basedon these three qualities.
The Power of the PortraitThe Destruction of a Monument to Joseph Stalin, Budapest, Hungary,October 23, 1956.
The Power of the PortraitToppled Statue of Vladimir Lenin, Talllinn, Estonia, destroyed c. 1986-1991.
The Power of the PortraitThe Dismantlement of a Statue of Sadam Hussein, FirdosSquare, Bagdad, Iraq, April 9th, 2005.
Real or Ideal? *Verism is the idea that Roman portraits were “true to life.”Head of Roman Patrician, Marble, c. 75-50 BCE.
Real or Ideal? *Assuming “likeness” is always an uncertain and sometimes dangerous position to take.Head of Roman Patrician, Marble, c. 75-50 BCE.
1. FaceHead of Roman Patrician, Augustus PrimaportaMarble, c. 75-50 BCE. (Detail), 1st century CE.
1. Face: Questions1. Is the subject smiling, frowning, etc.?2. Does the subject meet the viewer’s gaze? Is the gaze intense?3. How old is the subject portrayed? Is the age the actual age of the subject?4. Is the subject considered attractive? How does the subject agree or disagree with contemporary concepts of beauty?
2. PoseHyacinthe Rigaud, Portrait of Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres,Louis XIV, 1701. Louis-Francois Bertin, 1832.
2. Pose: Questions1. Is the subject standing? Sitting?2. Is the portrait a bust? Full body?3. What is the subject doing with his/her hands?4. Is the position of the body frontal? Oblique?5. Is the pose formal? Informal?6. How does the pose convey the mood of the subject?
3. Grooming/ClothingAlbrecht Durer, Self-Portrait at 28 Albrecht Durer, Self-Portrait at 26, 1498.(as Christ), 1500.
3. Grooming/Costume: Questions1. How is the subject dressed?2. How does the subject groom his/herself? Facial hair? Hair style?3. How does the subject’s attire communicate his/her social status? Wealth?4. Does the subject’s attire communicate a particular persona or identity?5. How does the grooming of the subject contribute to their perceived character?
4. SettingElizabeth-Louise Vigee-Le Brun, Marie Elizabeth-Louise Vigee-Le Brun,Antoinette and Her Children, 1786. Marie Antoinette in Gaul, 1780.
4. SettingEdgar Degas, Place de la Concorde (Portrait of Vicomte Lepic andhis Daughters), 1873-1874.
4. Setting: Questions1. Is there a visible setting in this portrait? If there is a setting, what is it?2. Is it an outdoor setting? Indoor?3. Does the setting have a special relationship with the subject?4. How does the setting relate to the entire portrait?5. How is the space used? Little space? A lot of space?
AgencySee Video Below
Unknown Artist, Posthumous Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I,1604 (under painting), 18th century (later additions).
Agency Artist Art Viewer Context*Agency is the a means of exerting power or influence.
Agency Artist Art Viewer Context*A portrait can be seen as a negotiation between the agencies of the artist and the sitter.
Agency Artist Art Viewer Context*Ask yourself: who has the most agency, the subject or the artist?
Subject as Agent “Besides nobleness of birth, I would that he [the ideal courtier] have not only a wit, and a comely shape of person and countenance, but also a certain grace which shall make him at first sight acceptable and loving unto whosoever beholdeth him…Our Courtier ought not to profess to be a glutton nor drunkard, notorious or inordinate in any ill condition, nor filthy and unclean in his living.”Raphael, Baldassare Castiglione, 1510. Castiglione, from The Courtier, c. 1508.
Artist as Agent “It is not Baudelaire…but it is a head that resembles Baudelaire. There are a series of characteristics that…preserve the cerebral conformation and that core calls the type; this bust is of a draftsman named Malteste who shows all the characteristics of the Baudelairean mask. See the enormous forehead, swollen at the temples, dented, tormented, handsome, nevertheless…the eyes have the look of disdain; the mouth is sarcastic, bitter in its sinuous line, but the swelling of the muscles, a little fat, announces the voluptuous appetites. In short, it is Baudelaire.”Auguste Rodin, Head of Baudelaire, 1892. Rodin, On the Portrait, c. 1892.
Artist as AgentGuillame-Thomas-Francois Raynal Jean-Baptiste-Belley Anne-Louis Girodet-Trioson, Portrait of Head of Roman Patrician, 75-50 Jean-Baptiste Belley, 1797. BCE.
Artist as Agent Jean-Baptiste-BelleyAnne-Louis Girodet-Trioson, Portrait of Capitoline Satyr, Roman Copy ofJean-Baptiste Belley, 1797. Greek Original, c. 1st century CE
Self-PortraitArtemisia Gentileschi, Self-Portrait as the Allegory of Painting,1638-1639.
Exploration of IdentityCindy Sherman, Untitled (as Cindy Sherman, Untitled Film Still, 1978.Caravaggio’s Bacchus), 1989.
Portraits without Faces Trompe L’Oeil = Trick the EyeJohn Frederick Peto, Reminiscences of 1865, c. 1900.
Do-Ho Suh, Uni-Forms/s: Self-Portrait/s: My 39 Years, 2006.
Interrogating the Portrait1. Do we know the name of the person the portrait represents? What do we know about the subject? How does that change your understanding of the portrait?2. How does the portrait reflect the “likeness” of the subject? How are you determining likeness?3. What “decisions” are being made in the execution of the portrait? How do those decisions create a specific identity for the subject?4. Who is making those decisions? The subject? The artist? A combination of the two?