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Parmigianino, Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror

Video transcript

sometimes in our history we say painting is like a mirror that is it's a perfect reflection utterly undistorted and exacting but sometimes the mirror itself is distorted and that's what we have in parmigianino self-portrait he did this when he was 21 years old the self-portrait in the convex mirror and so the reflection we're getting is really distorted it's a lot of fun it really is fun and it's made even more ingenious even looping back on itself because parmigianino didn't paint this on a flat surface he created a wooden base that actually is convex and mimics the mirror itself which just heightens the effect he's really showing off parmigianino x' face is almost dead center but he's wonderfully calm but it seems as if the world around him is swirling and kind of chaos has been unleashed by the distortions of this mirror and then I just can't help but love the way what would normally be the rectilinear beams of the ceiling and of the window all of the right angles that would form the architecture of the room here collapse around him and create this beautiful distorted frame this is an early Mannerist painting we think about mannerism happening right at the end of the high Renaissance beginning in the 1520's and that idea of distortion of showing off a virtuoso technique those are things we associate with mannerism he presented this portrait along with some other paintings that he had done to Pope Clement the seventh in the hopes of achieving some papal Commission that did not happen now but you can see that this painting would really be look what I can do and of course he's for grounding his hand the instrument of his great technique you know it's interesting he's painting is one that loops back on itself over and over again if you look to the right side of the painting you can just perhaps make out what must be a doorway but it's become very small and to the right of that you can just make out the gold of the frame of the painting itself which must be on his easel and you can see the top of the easel and so you can see the frame that he's fashioning that will actually hold this wooden panel and so there really is way that this is wonderfully self-conscious when you think back to very beginnings of the Renaissance when the artist was considered a craftsman and how that's changed and how the artist now regards himself as this great talent with important services to offer the Pope things are really changed but it's a really intellectualized talent and one that thinks about issues of optics issues of Lyon and really almost of the philosophy of seeing itself