Bartolomé Esteban Murillo’s Self Portrait

“Artist painting themselves – “first piece of self referential art”, that is what my wife just said…”

At the National Gallery, London, I spotted this painting of Bartolome Esteban Murillo, 1617 – 1682. A Spanish painter who, it was said, was encouraged to paint this self-portrait at the behest of his family. The question is, why would it have caught my eye?

As you can see for yourself, the frame of the mirror has a hand holding the bottom rail – and in effect the hand is ‘leaving the reflection’ and breaking the reality of it being a ‘man in the mirror’ as you would expect from a self portrait. Seeing as he was most well known for paintings portraying the immaculate conception, maybe this is an early form of conceptual art – playfully showing us an immaculate misconception of a mirror misbehaving.