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The Cover
September 21, 2011

Self-portrait

JAMA. 2011;306(11):1174. doi:10.1001/jama.2011.1336

It is difficult to determine if Luis Eugenio Meléndez’s (1716-1780) Self-portrait (cover) is an exhibition of his artistic talent or an expression of his personal character. The artist's forthright posture, puffed-out chest, and confident gaze present the viewer with a self-assured, perhaps even arrogant young man. As proof of his talent, Meléndez brandishes a finished figure drawing as a badge of accomplishment for a fully trained academic painter. The nude is expertly modeled, and the curling paper seems to suggest it was abruptly torn from a drawing board by an artist anxious for its display. In addition to the artist's countenance, however, there is also technical mastery on display. He has rendered with acute detail not only the fragile paper, but also his silk jacket and waistcoat, his voluminous cuff, the blue velvet cloak, and the artist's metal portacarboncillo, a double-sided drawing tool that holds both black and white chalk. Here, we see a fitting integration of vanity and skill.

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