See “selfies” from 300 years ago
See “selfies” from 300 years ago A woman admires paintings during a press preview of an exhibition called "Dutch Self-Portraits - Selfies of the Golden Age", at the Mauritshuis museum in The Hague, Wednesday Oct. 7, 2015. (AP Photo/Mike Corder)
See “selfies” from 300 years ago
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These days, anybody with a smartphone can snap a selfie in a split second. Back in the Dutch Golden Age, they were called self-portraits. And they were the preserve of highly trained artists who thought long and hard about every aspect of the painting.
Now the Mauritshuis museum in The Hague, Netherlands, is staging an exhibition. It is focusing solely on these 17th century self-portraits. It will highlight the similarities and the differences between modern-day snapshots and historic works of art.
The museum's director is Emilie Gordenker. She said there has never been such an exhibition of Golden Age Dutch self-portraits before. Her museum was keen to tie the paintings to a modern-day phenomenon, the ubiquitous selfie. Those are captured with smartphone cameras. They are spread via social media.
The exhibition runs through Jan. 3. It features 27 self-portraits by artists ranging from Rembrandt van Rijn, a master of the genre, to his student Carel Fabritius, best known for "The Goldfinch." That painting hangs elsewhere in the Mauritshuis. Another artist's works come from Judith Leyster. Her self-portrait is on loan from the National Gallery of Art in Washington.
A less well-known artist is Huygh Pietersz Voskuyl. He is the poster boy for the exhibition. His striking 1638 self-portrait features a classic selfie pose. He is staring over his right shoulder out of the frame. It does not take much imagination to picture him gazing into the lens of a smartphone rather than a mirror. The mirror is what Golden Age artists used to capture their images for self-portraits. Giant mirrors are spread through the exhibition space. They create reflections within reflections of paintings that are themselves mirror images.
While the similarities between selfies and self-portraits are obvious, the differences are also apparent. A selfie is often shot speedily with little concern for composition. But these self-portraits are carefully conceived works of art. A video made for the exhibition highlights the thought that went into the paintings and what today's selfie makers can learn from it to improve their snapshots.
And, yes, you are allowed to take selfies in the museum.
The Voskuyl is a good example of the richness that can be found in such an apparently simple picture.
"He brings out all these little details, like his beard or the little embroidery on his shirt. Even a kind of fake wood-paneled wall behind him," Gordenker said. "So he's thought very hard about the textures and the things that make him who he is. At the same time, you can see the skill with which he painted this. And this will have definitely been a very good advertisement for what he could do."
That kind of attention to detail and quality made the self-portraits almost a Golden Age calling card. They showcased the artist and his or her talents to potential clients.
"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," said the exhibition's curator, Ariane van Suchtelen. "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."

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Why are people compelled to make pictures of themselves?
Write your answers in the comments section below

  • benjamins-buh
    10/15/2015 - 11:40 a.m.

    I can't believe that that happened maybe that's how selfies originated.yeah people do take tons of selfies.

  • mauricioa-hol
    10/15/2015 - 12:12 p.m.


  • johnd-3-bar
    10/15/2015 - 07:32 p.m.

    People are compelled to take pictures of them selves because it captures there looks in day to day life. Its a way of documenting yourself.

    It was a very interesting article.

  • Eugene0808-YYCA
    10/15/2015 - 09:55 p.m.

    I think this is cool because selfies and self portraits are very similar in a way. The only differences are the technology. Selfies are more digital and self portraits are more of the past.
    Why are people compelled to make pictures of themselves?
    Answer: People are compelled to make pictures of themselves because they want to show off.

  • katherinec-3-bar
    10/16/2015 - 03:08 a.m.

    People were compelled to make pictures of themselves so that they would be remembered & the painter loves to paint portraits to show what beautiful art they could make. I found this very suprising because I wasn't even born when people didn't have smart phones or cameras so it is very weird to think they needed to paint themselves.

  • maddyc-Orv
    10/16/2015 - 12:19 p.m.

    People are compelled to make (and take) pictures of themselves because people are self-centered. At least in these days they are. People want to look amazing on their social media acounts so they take a selfie with too much make up on and then edit so much it doesn't even look them anymore- but they are so pretty!(yeah, and I'm so sarcastic)

  • vemaurionp-orv
    10/16/2015 - 02:29 p.m.

    i really thought it was really selfies well they say it is but it just paintings of people right in there faces but it does kind of look like selfies but they didn't even front cameras back then :]

  • GigiSylvester-Ste
    10/16/2015 - 03:45 p.m.

    I don't really know why people take pictures of themselves. However, lots of people are guilty of it.

  • TaylorSeifert-Ste
    10/16/2015 - 11:59 p.m.

    It is kind of interesting how people used to have others make portraits of their faces, but I don't think that can really be called a selfie. The portraits were most often a one time thing to preserve in history, while currently people take hundreds of selfies a day. Hearing the world selfie makes me disappointed in the world, honestly. It just shows how self-centered some people are and if you think about it, the only reason phones have a front-facing camera is so that people can take selfies, which almost everyone does.

  • ShawnaWeiser-Ste
    10/17/2015 - 03:18 p.m.

    I would love to see this exhibit! Modern art is so plain anymore compared to earlier pieces. Seeing self portraits lined up and thinking about the differences between them and "selfies" would be extraordinary.

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