Self Portrait as Signature

Lorenzo Ghiberti (1378-1455)
Painting: Gates of Paradise - east baptistery doors (1425-52) Florence

Ghiberti’s east baptistery doors contain one of the first self portraits of an artist which acted as a signature to the work.  In 1401 Ghiberti won a competition to design a set of bronze baptistery for the east front. However, these doors have now been relocated to the north in order to make way for his later doors the, Gates of Paradise, 1425-52. The Gates of Paradise are divided into ten panels depicting scenes from the Old Testament.

Ghiberti employed the recently discovered principles of perspective to give depth to his compositions. The panels are surrounded by a richly decorated gilt framework which contain statuettes and busts of prophets. The central busts are portraits of the artist and his father, Bartolomeo Ghiberti.

Jan Van Eyck (1390-1441)
Painting: The Arnolfini Wedding (1434

The Arnolfini Wedding is believed to be a portrait documenting the wedding of Giovanni Arnolfini, an Italian cloth merchant, and his wife. This painting is embedded in rich iconography* and art historians have debated is meaning for many years.

In the centre of the painting a couple stand in their finery with their hands held. In the background there is a convex mirror, which reflects the artist as he stands in front of them, outside of the picture plane. Above this mirror Van Eyck has signed his name, Johannes de eyck fuit hic 1434 (Jan van Eyck was here 1434). Northern European artists were signing their works from a much earlier date than those in the southern Europe.

*iconography = symbolism


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