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The self-portrait as self-promotion

Three-quarters length, standing, facing three quarters to the right, head turned half to the right, wearing the maroon robes of Doctor of Civil Law, Oxford, with a black velvet cap; his left hand holds a scroll resting on a plinth next to a bust of Michel

Self-Portrait (after Reynolds) ©

Any artist who earns a living through their art needs to find patrons or customers. From the Renaissance onwards, most of those customers have been conscious of buying not just the work of art as an object in itself, but also something of the 'aura' of the artist who created it. Artists have therefore promoted themselves as well as their works, and the self-portrait has been an important tool in this marketing campaign – whether painted for a patron or for display, or printed for mass circulation.

Artists have portrayed themselves as honest craftsmen, as inspired geniuses, as sophisticated courtiers, as pillars of society and as heirs to a long tradition. Almost every self-portrait in this exhibition is a carefully honed image, intended to appeal to a specific audience.

After Sir Godfrey Kneller (1646-1723)

John Smith with his Print of Sir Godfrey Kneller

William Hogarth (1697-1764)

A self-portrait with a pug

Thomas Frye (c.1710-62)

A self-portrait

Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723-92)

A self-portrait

Samuel William Reynolds (1773–1835) after Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723-92)

A self-portrait of Sir Joshua Reynolds

Caroline Kirkley (b. c.1773) after Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723-92)

A self-portrait of Sir Joshua Reynolds

Rosalba Giovanna Carriera (Venice 1675-Venice 1757)

A self-portrait

Valentine Green (1739–1813) after Maria Cosway (c.1759/60–1838)

A self-portrait of Maria Cosway

Rembrandt van Rijn (Leiden 1606-Amsterdam 1669)

Self-Portrait in a Flat Cap

Sir Peter Paul Rubens (Siegen 1577 - Antwerp 1640)

Portrait of the Artist

Daniel Mytens (c. 1590-1647)

A self-portrait

Isaac Oliver (c. 1565-1617)

A self-portrait

Peter Oliver (1589-1647)

A self-portrait

Samuel Cooper (1609-72)

A self-portrait

Jean-Étienne Liotard (1702-89)

Portrait of the Artist

Mary Knowles (1733-1807)

Needlework picture

Parmigianino (Girolamo Francesco Maria Mazzola, 1503–1540)

A self-portrait

Wenceslaus Hollar (1607–1677) after Jan Meyssens (1612–1670)

A portrait of Wenceslaus Hollar holding an etched plate

Thomas Major (1720-1799)

A self-portrait

Fedor Iwanowitsch (1765-1832)

A self-portrait

William Strang (1859-1921)

A self-portrait

Henry Rayner (1902–1957)

A self-portrait