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

  • johnh-sjo
    10/20/2015 - 10:59 a.m.

    They are compelled to make pictures of themselves because they people to remember them.

  • dylanb-sjo
    10/20/2015 - 11:00 a.m.

    So they can see the "beauty in them selves,"as said in the last paragraph.

  • makenzien-sjo
    10/20/2015 - 11:00 a.m.

    I don't know why people are so compelled to make pictures of themselves they just do it. I would love to go to that museum and see it because that seems to be very interesting.

  • nicholass-sjo
    10/20/2015 - 11:01 a.m.

    People are compelled to make pictures of themselves because they want to become famous by putting their pictures in the museums.

  • isaact-sjo
    10/20/2015 - 11:01 a.m.

    I don't really know why people take pictures of themselves.however, lots of people are guilty of it.I do not now why people would take selfies

  • aliaw-sjo
    10/20/2015 - 11:03 a.m.

    So they can show how cool or cute they look

  • toriez-sjo
    10/20/2015 - 11:03 a.m.

    I think that it's kind of a shame for people to not let the history stay. Think about it, thousands of people take selfies but yet nobody wants to make self portraits. Some people may not have time but at least when you do just try to be a little more creative than just taking a picture of your face and letting everyone see it on Instagram or some public website! Show some artistic ability!

  • sophiar-sjo
    10/20/2015 - 11:03 a.m.

    The museum is in The Hague, Netherlands

  • lahnac-sjo
    10/20/2015 - 11:04 a.m.

    So they can show "an example of the beautiful art they can make."

  • dominicks-sjo
    10/20/2015 - 11:05 a.m.

    To remember what happened in the past and were they were

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