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Collecting artists' self-portraits

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Although portraits of artists had been collected alongside images of other important figures from the sixteenth century onwards, collections devoted to self-portraits of artists did not emerge until the seventeenth century. This phenomenon can be linked to a general rise in the status of the artist and the related growth in biographies dedicated to their lives.

Charles I was one of the first people to actively collect and display portraits of artists. By the late 1630s he owned at least twelve portraits of artists, three of which were hung together in his private Breakfast Chamber at Whitehall Palace. By the eighteenth century, collecting self-portraits had become more commonplace. The development of photography in the nineteenth century offered a new way of collecting portraits of artists in the form of cartes-de-visite – small photographs that could be traded among friends.