National Treasures

Self-Portrait of Aurélia de Souza

Aurélia de Souza (1866-1922)

c. 1900

Oil on canvas

Inventory sheet

In this self-portrait, one of the several she painted during her life, the artist presents herself in a manner as enigmatic as disturbing. A small canvas presumably done in Paris around 1900, its unique features distance it from 19th century conventions, giving it an unexpected modernity.

The work highlights the absolute frontality of the suspended figure against its black background. The oval face, which marks the exact centre of the composition, appears like a mask, the self-image that the painter wants (or doesn’t want) to reveal in a double centrality, both physical and mental. The rigorous symmetry stems from the vertical line suggested by the middle of the hair, the face, the cameo, the lace of the blouse and the triangle drawn by the red coat. This, due to the density and extent of the red, takes on an essential formal protagonism. Unanimously considered a masterpiece of self-portraiture in Portugal, this is a painting that has achieved international recognition