We know what you’re thinking. How can Michelangelo Caravaggio’s 1602 narrative masterpiece “The Betrayal” be featured as this week’s portraiture highlight? Indeed, Caravaggio produced little portraiture and even fewer self-portraits throughout his vexing career and life. The 1602 canvas — which today is housed in the National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin — comes into play with the artist’s seemingly remarkable and complex use of embedded self-portraiture.
In contrast to autonomous self-portraiture (i.e., the artist presenting himself or herself as a singular subject), embedded self-portraits are only part of a much larger context, which in many cases is a narrative whose primary subject is the story. “The Betrayal” has been a source of great allure and mystery for scholars in light of a possible embedded self-portrait in addition to Caravaggio’s surprising nonviolent approach to — and involvement in — the subject.
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