This rather wistful self-portrait may have been made as a study for a now lost painting or a print late in Sirani's career. However, it could just as well have been an independent piece produced for the large market that existed for Sirani's works in her own lifetime. Her talent as a female artist and reputed beauty had quickly brought her European fame. She would often entertain members of the nobility with conversation, dinner and song in her studio along with her two sisters Ana-Maria and Barbara, who also painted.

Sirani produced about 15 painted self-portraits and several more as drawings. Most famously, in a now lost painting, she portrayed herself paintng the portrait of her father Giovanni Andrea. She sometimes drew herself as a lady of rank, or with her shoulders seductively bare. None, however, match the informal and intimate air of this piece. The false belief that Sirani had died of poisoning probably added to the intrigue of owning her self-portrait for English collectors such as Charles Rogers and William Roscoe. In fact she probably died, more prosaically, from a bleeding stomach ulcer brought on by overwork.


  • Title: Self-Portrait
  • Creator: Elisabetta Sirani
  • Creator Lifespan: 1638/1665
  • Date Created: circa 1664
  • Location Created: Italy, Bologna
  • Physical Dimensions: 21.5 cm x 17.3 cm
  • Rights: Purchased from the Trustees of the Weld Heirlooms Settlement with the assistance of the National Heritage Memorial Fund, the Art Fund, Sir Denis Mahon and British Nuclear Fuels in 1995
  • Medium: Red chalk; Grey ink; Beige paper; Card

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