The painting was meant to be a portrait, yet it also has a meditative message, since it brings into focus two aspects of human life: man living in time, caught in a certain moment of his existence, and death. The deliberate parallelism between the living person and the skull is evinced by the use of the same tones and colours in depicting the flesh of the man’s face and hands and the bony remains of the skull. The only deviation from this chromatic harmonization is represented by the brown tones of the fur collar that confer a delicate chromatic balance to the painting, centring the composition. The painting is unique, inasmuch as its message is much more complex than would be that of a simple memento mori. The man’s finger is pointing at the symbol of extinction but we notice that his eyes and the orbs of the skull look in the same direction, thereby suggesting not the temporal succession of death after life but, rather, their parallelism. ©Dana Roxana Hrib, European Art Gallery Guidebook, Second edition, Sibiu 2011.


  • Title: Self portrait of Aelbrecht Bouts
  • Creator: Aelbrecht Bouts
  • Date: 1519 - 1524
  • Physical Dimensions: w33 x h42.6 cm (Without frame)
  • Photo copyright: ©Christof Weber
  • Collecting: Brukenthal National Museum, Sibiu, Romania
  • Provenance: Brukenthal National Museum
  • Type: painting
  • Medium: oil on oak

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