Scorpio Self Portraits: The Agony And The Absence

Thursday November 17th 2011
Francis Bacon, Oct 28

Don’t expect to find this an easy bunch of pictures to look at. We are in the land of Scorpio this month – and this sign like to deal with deeper truth. Not for Scorp the polished surface of a Gemini or the gorgeous patterns of Libra. No, Scorpio prefers to hit us between the eyes with a wallop of dark emotion.

And when Scorpio looks in the mirror what truth is revealed?

Pablo Picasso, Oct 25

Scorpio looks at him or herself and sees more than just an image. These are psychological portraits. Sometimes, Scorpio shows us what is beyond the mirror, the deeper soul shown graphically.

Roy Lichtenstein, Oct 27

Sometimes he even sees a monster. Picasso often portrayed himself as a minotaur, terrifying at times, at times tragic or just plain louche. Francis Bacon reveals his tortured soul. The canvas is like a butcher’s block with him being eviscerated.

Roy Lichtenstein, so famous for enormous canvasses of comicstrip heads talking, has chopped up his own face and he is speechless.

Sometimes Scorpio would prefer to turn away entirely; quite a number of very well-known Scorpio artists have left no self-portrait at all. Georgia O’Keeffe seems to have left nothing. Perhaps it was partly because her partner the photographer Alfred Stieglitz took hundreds of pictures of her. But I think it could be a reflection of the Scorpio love of privacy.

Jan Vermeer, Oct 31. 

There’s a certain primitive magic involved. If your face is recorded, even by yourself, are you giving away some power? Scorpio, of course, will never willingly give up an iota of control.

And then there are the absent portraits. Here are two Scorpios who simply turn their backs.

Rene Magritte, Nov 21

Zurbaran, Nov 8

Here the 17th-century painter Francisco Zurbaran too turns away from the viewer to contemplate something much more important than himself. I wonder how he painted himself in full profile like that. It’s interesting and appropriate that he has chosen to contemplate Christ in agony rather than, say, being suckled by Mary. Death is, after all, the province of Scorpio.

Someone else who prefers to distract the viewer from his own visage is William Hogarth, who’s subject matter was so often the gutter another Scorpionic domain. He has included his charming dog. But unlike most portraits with pets, this one is dominated by the little fellow. I like his turban.

On the other side of the channel, his contemporary Chardin, better known for his gorgeous still lives, made a few paintings of himself in which he also wears some interesting headgear. It was the fashion and better than putting on one of those sweaty wigs I expect.

But look at those penetrating Scorpio gazes.

Chardin, Nov 2
Hogarth, Nov 10
Antonio Canova, Nov 1

And here is another Scorpio gaze. Antonio Canova, renowned for his sensual sculpture, stares at himself so intently that his mouth is a little open. It’s an amazingly intense self-portrait. It looks as if he’s holding his breath for a moment.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    And in the Magritte portrait he paints the transformative potential of what he sees.

  2. Christina says:

    Oh my goodness, anon, you are so right.

  3. Vanessa says:

    Loved this blog entry! Much to think about! It also made me think about what my art is saying about me in terms of Sun/Moon/Asc placement.
    Love your blog!