Urgent Museum Notice

Self-Portrait

Close up of Self-Portrait

Three-quarter self-portrait print set in an oval with inscriptions along the perimeter depicts a light-skinned young woman with hair pinned up, wearing an elegant dress with an oversized lace collar and sleeves, gazing directly at the viewer.

Anna Maria van Schurman, Self-Portrait, 1640; Engraving on paper, 8 1/2 x 6 3/8 in.; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of Wallace and Wilhelmina Holladay

Self-Portrait
Anna Maria van Schurman

During her lifetime, Anna Maria van Schurman made numerous self-portraits. She constantly experimented with different techniques, including painting, pastels, etching, engraving, and drypoint. In this image, she combined the techniques of engraving and etching. Van Schurman depicted herself wearing an elegant dress embellished with lace on the bodice and sleeves. She convincingly rendered the illusion of spatial depth by shading the inner rim of the oval frame and placing herself behind a ledge, which pushes her figure farther back into the picture plane.

That ledge also obscures her hands. Van Schurman hid her hands in her first engraved self-portrait (1633), as well, for which a correspondent, the poet and statesman Constantijn Huygens, chided her. He admonished van Schurman for being ashamed of her ink-stained hands, which he said “have never found their equal.”

As the inscription on the oval frame tells us, the artist made this work in 1640 when she was 33 years old. The Latin inscription at the bottom is addressed to her friends, to whom she sent this portrait. It reads, “See my likeness depicted in this portrait:/May your favor perfect the work where art has failed.”

Artwork Details

  • Artist

    Anna Maria van Schurman
  • Title

    Self-Portrait
  • Date

    1640
  • Medium

    Engraving on paper
  • Dimensions

    8.5 x 6 3/8 in.
  • Donor Credit

    Gift of Wallace and Wilhelmina Holladay
  • On Display

    No