GELDER, Aert de
(b. 1645, Dordrecht, d. 1727, Dordrecht)

Self-Portrait at an Easel Painting an Old Woman

Oil on canvas
Städelsches Kunstinstitut, Frankfurt

In this unusual self-portrait the artist portrays himself laughing as he sits at his easel painting a portrait of an unlovely old lady. Why is he laughing? Albert Blankert persuasively argued that he has depicted himself as the ancient Greek painter Zeuxis who laughed so hard while painting the portrait of a funny old crone that he choked and died. The tale of Zeuxis's demise is found in a Roman source dated about 200 AD and was repeated by both van Mander (1604) and Hoogstraten (1678). De Gelder's Frankfurt painting was conceivably done in emulation of Rembrandt's Self-Portrait at Cologne which shows the old master laughing. X-rays and technical investigation reveal that Rembrandt may also have portrayed himself as Zeuxis laughing as he painted a portrait of an ugly old woman.