The x-ray of the painting reveals the elaborate creative process that went into its making. In general, the artist maintained the original position of all the principal elements: figure, window and landscape. There are only small changes to the figure’s shoulders, the white patch on his breast and in the transitional areas between the various items of clothing. On the left side of the figure there is a pale strip around the outline indicating that the clothing was originally slightly wider.
Dürer’s Self-portrait is painted on a poplar wood panel (52.5 x 41cm), approximately 7-8mm deep. It is made up of three separate pieces arranged vertically with no visible joining elements. The work was painted inside its frame, which is now lost, so that on the reverse it is possible to see a 5 to 8mm unpainted strip.
Dürer used a minutely detailed type of brushstroke both for the under-layers of the paint and for the surface ones, then applied particular types of handling to specific areas, all of which reveal his highly refined technique as a draughtsman. Using very fine brushes he emphasised the lighter areas through very thin, intersecting strokes that create different effects. This technique is evident on the right sleeve of the jacket and on the shirt and gloves. The curls of the hair are also painted with extremely delicate strokes. The treatment of light and shade on the face and bare chest is also very beautiful from a technical viewpoint, creating delicate graduations.
State of Conservation
The panel is well preserved with only some minor paint losses. The only significant one is at the lower left corner and may have resulted from the attachment and subsequent removal of an additional element. Fortunately, this has not affected any important area of the painting.