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My Portrait as a Skeleton, 1889

  • etching, paper
  • 116 x 75 mm
  • Inv. 1998-B-67-1

Public Domain

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In 1889 Ensor made a self-portrait after a photograph. In the photo he is standing in front of a window of the Rousseau family's house at 20 Rue Vautier in Brussels. With one arm resting on a windowsill and the other in the pocket of his jacket, he poses for the photographer. A woman, presumably Mariette Rousseau, is just visible through the window. On the first state of the etching "My portrait with a skull", of which a unique copy can be found in Mu.ZEE in Ostend, we see a fairly faithful copy of the photograph. In the second and third states, Ensor has stripped his face. Only his hair still adorns the skull, while his eyes, as in the photograph, look at the viewer. Behind the window, on the windowsill to the left, lies a skull, while the female figure has disappeared entirely.


James Ensor RKD VIAF Wikidata
Ostend 1860 - Ostend 1949

Title My Portrait as a Skeleton
Date 1889
Period 19th century
Medium and support etching AAT
Signatures, inscriptions, and markings signatures (names) bottom left: EnSOR
stamps (tools) on the reverse: AT
inscription on the reverse: D 67
Collection print room
Object type etching AAT
Inventory number 1998-B-67-1
Acquisition credit purchase
Taevernier, Auguste (coll.)
Current whereabouts Work currently not on display
IIIF Manifest
Art & Architecture Thesaurus 300124534 self-portraits AAT
300056485 fantastic art AAT
300189808 figures (representations) AAT
Keywords Iconclass 11R5 (personifications of) 'Vanitas', the vanity of human life; Fragilita humana, Fugacita delle grandezze della gloria mondana, Meditatione della morte, Opera vana, Piacere vano, Vana gloria, Vanita (Ripa) Iconclass
22C5 reflection (light in general) Iconclass
31A21 (human) skeleton Iconclass
31A211 (human) skull Iconclass
31A2212 eyes Iconclass
31A2245 hand Iconclass
31A22621 hair Iconclass
31A231 standing figure Iconclass
31D14 adult man Iconclass
31F11 death's head, skull (symbol of Death) Iconclass
41A3321 closed window Iconclass
41D2121 coat Iconclass
48C513 portrait, self-portrait of painter Iconclass
61B2(JAMES ENSOR) historical person (JAMES ENSOR) Iconclass
School / Style phantasy
satire (artistic device) AAT
Symbolism (artistic concept) AAT
Henri Leys, Henri de Braekeleer, James Ensor / Loys Delteil. - Paris : Chez l'Auteur, 1925 (nr. 67)
James Ensor : Catalogue illustré de ses gravures ; Leur description critique et l'inventaire des plaques = Geïllustreerde catalogus van zijn gravures ; Hun kritische beschrijving en inventaris van de platen = Illustrated catalogue of his engravings ; Their critical description and inventary of the plates / Auguste Taevernier. - Ledeberg (Gent) : Erasmus Boekhandel bv Amsterdam, 1973 (nr. 67)
Tristan Tzara : L'homme approximatif ; poète - écrivain d'art - collectionneur (exposition Strasbourg, Musée d'Art moderne et contemporain de Strasbourg, 24.09.2015 - 17.01.2016) / Serge Fauchereau, Henri Béhar, Hélène Besnier, Eugen Simion. - Strasbourg : Musées de la Ville de Strasbourg, 2015
Belgische schone : Ensor tot Magritte ; Hoogtepunten uit de verzameling van het Museum voor Schone Kunsten Gent (tentoonstelling Laren, Singer Laren, 16.06 - 30.08.2015) / Johan De Smet, Jan Rudolph De Lorm. - Gent : Museum voor Schone Kunsten Gent, 2015 ; Laren : Singer Laren, 2015 ; Heule : Uitgeverij Snoeck, 2015 (p. 35, cat. 16 (ill.))
The Academic Body (exhibition Rome, American Academy in Rome, 23.05 - 12.07.2019) / Mark Robbins, Peter Benson Miller, Mary Beard, Leslie Cozzi, Deborah Willis. - Rome : American Academy in Rome, 2019 (p. 54, cat. 17)
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