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Self-Portrait with carnations

Bartholomäus Bruyn, the Elder

Artwork Details

Self-Portrait with carnations
circa 1525
Bartholomäus Bruyn, the Elder
oil on panel
19 11/16 in x 13 3/4 in (50.01 cm x 34.92 cm);19 11/16 in x 13 3/4 in (50.01 cm x 34.92 cm);24 7/8 in x 19 in (63.18 cm x 48.26 cm)
Museum Purchase


March 28, 2009
Bartholomäus Bruyn the Elder, the foremost painter in sixteenth-century Cologne, portrays himself in this panel as a member of the city’s prosperous bourgeoisie. Bruyn established his workshop in 1512, and he built a career painting altarpieces and portraits of Cologne’s elite, his most important patrons. Bruyn himself held a number of positions in the city government between 1518 and 1553, and this self-portrait testifies to his commercial success and social status. Confident and somewhat aloof, Bruyn wears somber colors offset by the understated luxury of his fur collar, embroidered cuffs, and gold jewelry. The same ethos of sobriety and affluence characterizes Bruyn’s portraits of the city’s most prominent citizens. The two carnations on the ledge before him may be reminders of the fleeting nature of wealth and youth, or they may indicate that Bruyn painted this panel for his betrothal or marriage.

Subject Matter:

Bartholomaeus Bruyn the elder displays his rank as a successful young painter in Cologne through this elegant self-portrait. For the painting he adopted a casual but self-possessed pose that imbues him with an air of confidence that is reinforced by the understated luxury of his garb and jewelry. The gold chain around his neck perhaps refers to his profession as a painter, and the carnations, popular symbols of conjugal love, on the ledge before him suggest that Bruyn might have painted this portrait for his betrothal or marriage.

Physical Description:

This elegant self-portrait depicts a half-length figure of a man in three-quarters profile with his left arm resting on a stone ledge. The somber colors of his garb, consisting of a white shirt with a dark robe, is offset by luxurious details: the fur collar of his robe, the black ribbon and gold chain around his neck, the embroidered collar and cuffs of his shirt, and the three rings on his right hand. Two pink carnations appear on the ledge before him.

Usage Rights:

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