Israhel van Meckenem, Self-portrait and Wife, an engraving

Germany, signed, around AD 1490

Copperplate engraved double portrait

The Latin inscription on the bottom of this print translates as 'The portrait of Israhel and Ida his wife', followed by the artist's monogram, IVM. This engraving is the first self-portrait, and the first portrait of an identified individual, in print.

Israhel van Meckenem (1450-1503) was the most prolific printmaker of the fifteenth century: some 620 engravings are attributed to him. He is notorious for copying the work of other engravers, including 200 prints by Master ES, and the three engravings by Schongauer shown here. He even reworked 41 plates by Master ES that had worn down in the printing process. His original engravings show scenes from everyday life. They record contemporary dress and manners with honesty and humour.

Double portraits of a husband and wife were known in contemporary painting (they are also found on ancient Roman tombstones), but separate painted panels designed to be hung together were more common. In this engraving, Israhel and Ida gaze outwards without acknowledging each other's presence. They look like separate portraits engraved on a single plate, and then united visually by the ornamental panel behind them.

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More information

Bibliography

D. Landau and P. Parshall, The Renaissance print 1470-155 (New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 1994)

Dimensions

Diameter: 124.000 mm
Width: 173.000 mm

Museum number

PD E.1 - 94 (Lehrs 1)

PPA53667

Location

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