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Self-KnowledgeA History$
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Ursula Renz

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780190226411

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: February 2017

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190226411.001.0001

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(p.295) Reflection IV Self-Portraiture

Christopher S. Wood

Oxford University Press

It is not clear that art ever offers anything like knowledge. But if it does, then one should perhaps look to the self-portrait. The self-portrait is an image of an individual created by that individual, in modern times with the aid of a mirror or a camera. Self-scrutiny in a mirror, and the effort to fix the mirror image in paint or chalk, may bring understanding about the self and its social entanglement in poses and expressions. Even study of a self-portrait produced with little effort, for example, with a camera held at arm’s length, may yield insights into aspects of character and personality masked by social performance. The possibilities and the limits of self-knowledge through self-portraiture are discussed with reference to an etched self-portrait by Rembrandt and to its democratic descendant, the “selfie.”

Keywords:   self-knowledge, self-portraiture, self-scrutiny, Rembrandt, selfie, mirror

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