We will never know for certain whether or not the personification of death was an afterthought, as one account would have it. Artists’ self-portraits with a memento mori have been known since time immemorial. The inspiration for this figure of Death playing the fiddle probably came from the Portrait of Sir Bryan Tuke in the Alte Pinakothek in Munich, where Böcklin had lived since 1871. At the time it was wrongly attributed to Hans Holbein the Younger, whose woodcuts of dances of death with images of Death playing the fiddle would also have been known to Böcklin. In this self-portrait, Death is playing on the lowest string, tuned to G, which is here also the only string of the fiddle. The painter, alert, has paused in his work. According to the story, Böcklin only painted in the figure of Death in response to his friends’ asking what he seemed to be listening to. This clearly relates to the search for the ultimate that characterizes this self-portrait, and the inspiration the artist draws from the constant proximity of death. The impressive quality of this self-portrait inspired other painters including Hans Thoma and Lovis Corinth to paint similar portraits of themselves.