Collection online


  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Description

    Self-portrait; head and shoulders to front, wearing a cap perched on top of his head, curly hair at each side, a small moustache and whispy beard, shirt open at the neck. c.1630 Red chalk

  • Producer name

  • School/style

  • Date

    • 1630 (circa)
  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 256 millimetres
    • Width: 197 millimetres
  • Inscriptions

      • Inscription Content

        Inscribed on an old mount with the artist's dates and a paragraph about him in Italian
  • Curator's comments

    The Italian inscription on the drawing, which was added at a slightly later date, explains that the self portrait was made with the aid of a mirror in about 1630, when Poussin (then in Rome) was recovering from a severe illness; and that it was presented to Cardinal Massimi, to whom he gave drawing lessons. The Cardinal died in 1677 and the drawing is next recorded in the possession of the Florentine collector Giovanni Battista d'Ambra in 1715.

    The uncharacteristic use of red chalk and the wild character of the drawing has led to much debate over both its attribution and the identification of its sitter. Rosenberg and Prat rejected the attribution of this drawing to Poussin (and the identification of him as the sitter) in their 1994 catalogue raisonné of Poussin's drawings, but the attribution has since been upheld by other scholars. Prat reiterated his doubts over the drawing in 2013, when he described it as ''École française ou italienne du XVIIe siècle'.

    However, in 2016 Sheila Barker drew our attention to a list of expenses included in one of d'Ambra's inventories in 1715, which records the purchase of framing glass 'per il famoso ritratto di Niccolo di Possino fatto allo specchio in matita rosa da se medesimo [for the famous portrait of Nicolas Poussin made in a mirror in red chalk by himself]'. This indicates that, only 45 years after the death of Massimi, the BM sheet was well-known as a self-portrait of the artist. Furthermore, it was judged valuable and admirable enough to hang on the wall rather than being kept in an album.

    At some point before d'Ambra's death in 1725, the drawing passed into the collection of Francesco Maria Niccolò Gabburri, the avid collector of artists' self-portraits, who lent it to an exhibition at SS. Annunziata in Florence in 1624. Gabburri was probably the author of the inscription, which is unusually extensive compared to the other drawings known from his collection, and which may point to his great pride in having acquired the self-portrait. This interpretation is given greater weight by the evidence from d'Ambra's inventory that it was already a famous and celebrated drawing.


    Lit.: N. Turner, 'The Gabburri/ Rogers series of drawn self-portraits and portraits of artists', "Journal of the History of Collections", 5, Number 2, 1993, Appendix II, no. 2, p. 203


  • Bibliography

    • Friedlaender 1939 379 bibliographic details
    • Prat 2013 pp. 14-15, fig. 1 (as 'École française ou italienne du XVIIe siècle') bibliographic details
    • Rosenberg & Prat 1994 R489 bibliographic details
  • Location

    Not on display (French Roy XVIIc)

  • Exhibition history

    1974 July-Dec, BM, Portrait Drawings, no.139 1981 Sep-Oct, Edinburgh, NG Scotland, 'Pousin's Sacraments', no. 56
    1984 BM, Master Drawings & Watercolours, no.117 1990/1 Dec-Feb, Oxford, Ashmolean Museum, Drawings by Poussin
    2016-17 Sept-Jan, BM, 'French Portrait Drawings' (no cat)

  • Subjects

  • Associated names

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date


  • Department

    Prints & Drawings

  • Registration number


COMPASS Title: Nicolas Poussin, Self-portrait, a red chalk drawing


COMPASS Title: Nicolas Poussin, Self-portrait, a red chalk drawing

Image description



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Object reference number: PDO2746

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