1878-79 Oil on canvas
Manet is best known for depicting the manners and customs of modern Paris, but he was also a master of portrait painting. Only two of his self-portraits in oils are extant. (The other is in a private collection.) Both date from almost the same time frame, when he was for ty-six or for ty-seven. He appears to have painted them to display his pride at having achieved an established reputation in the art world.
The plain, dark background suggests the influence of the Spanish paintings then in vogue in Paris. Manet depicted his face meticulously: his penetrating gaze, his reddish cheeks and ears. In contrast, bold brushstrokes are visible on his jacket and pants. A man’s jacket lapels usually overlap right over left. He has reversed them in this painting because he was looking at a mirror as he painted. By this time, moreover, his left leg was beginning to trouble him; he would not have been putting his weight on it. Manet paints himself without the brush and palette that are signs of his trade. Instead, his attitude as he stands with both hands in his pockets conveys his resolve. This painting was quite private; Manet showed it only to people close to him.