Albrecht Durer, “Self Portrait,” 1500, oil on panel, 26 x 19 inches, Alte Pinakothek

In this occasional series, Fine Art Today delves into the world of portraiture, highlighting historical and contemporary examples of superb quality and skill. This week we consider one of the most important self-portraits ever created.

Albrecht Dürer was undoubtedly one of the most spectacular and accomplished artists of the Renaissance. Indeed, his iconic “Self-Portrait” from the year 1500 is one of the most significant self-images ever produced.

It is often suggested by scholars that Durer’s 1500 self-portrait depicts the artist in the guise of Christ Pantocrator, and it has come to represent one of the first explicit visualizations of how artists viewed themselves as craftsmen inspired by God. As foremost German Renaissance scholar Joseph Leo Koerner writes, the painting is “formalized so as to display its underlying construction almost in the manner of an architectural front elevation.” He adds, “[S]et off against a neutral ground, the 1500 likeness is less a body in a setting than a principle of pictorial order consubstantial with the visual image itself.”1

The deep symbolism, semiology, proportions, and ratios Dürer manipulated in the self-portrait were extraordinarily original and radical for the time. The picture is not just a visual representation, but something beyond appearance and status, something that gave the viewer “access to an interior self and reflected the underlying idea of painting itself: art is the image of its maker.”2

Today, the brilliant oil is located at the Alte Pinakothek in Munich, Germany. To learn more about this extraordinary portrait, visit Alte Pinakothek.

1 Joseph Leo Koerner, The Moment of Self-Portraiture in German Renaissance Art, (Chicago UP, 1993): 63.

2 Omar Calabrese, Artists’ Self-Portraits, 1st ed. (New York: Abbeville Press, 2006): 18.

This article was featured in Fine Art Today, a weekly e-newsletter from Fine Art Connoisseur magazine. To start receiving Fine Art Today for free, click here.

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Andrew Webster is the former Editor of Fine Art Today and worked as an editorial and creative marketing assistant for Streamline Publishing. Andrew graduated from The University of North Carolina at Asheville with a B.A. in Art History and Ceramics. He then moved on to the University of Oregon, where he completed an M.A. in Art History. Studying under scholar Kathleen Nicholson, he completed a thesis project that investigated the peculiar practice of embedded self-portraiture within Christian imagery during the 15th and early 16th centuries in Italy.


  1. But it does not come up with a large amount of sense that Durer will be
    copying the Italian artists in this manner for he was just a regional artist at this point in time.

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