Manet’s Self-Portrait with a Skull-Cap (1878-9)

This is a detail from one of Manet's only two self-portraits. It is important because it demonstrates how one artist identifies with another. Note, for instance, Manet's cap. It is similar to the cap that......

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Manet, Self-Portrait with a Skull-Cap (1878-9) Oil on canvas. Bridgestone Museum of Art, Tokyo.

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.....Filippino Lippi, the fifteenth-century Florentine artist, wears in his own self-portrait, a painting that Manet copied when he visited Italy in his early twenties. It is also similar to the cap that.....

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Manet, Copy after Self-Portrait by Filippino Lippi (1856)

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......Titian wears in what would then have been his best-known self-portrait. By wearing the cap in his painting, whether or not the actual cap existed, Manet demonstrates his identification with the two earlier artists. Moreover, in placing the connecting symbol on his head, Manet states something more: "our minds are similar too."

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After Titian, Self-portrait engraved by Britto

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This sense of identification between one artist and another is so strong that even Larry Rivers, the twentieth-century American artist, could say in an address towards the end of his life: "....I was an artist in a drama about the history of art. I made the appropriate gestures; I played the role of connector from caveman artist up through the present. You name them, I was them.”1 It is a perennial, yet unrecognized, idea in art, sensed by masters in every century, regardless of style, period or country. 

Notes:

1. Memorial Address, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Sept. 16th, 1981, cited in Barbara Rose, “Larry Rivers: Painter of Modern Life” in Rose and Jacquelyn Days Serwer, Larry Rivers: Art and Artist (Washington, DC: Corcoran Gallery of Art) 2002, p. 47

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