The first documented self-portrait dates back to the second millennium before Christ. It is an Egyptian bas-relief that portrays the artist in profile drinking from the jar offered by his patron’s servant in a feast crowded with guests. This kind of self-portraits was like the artist’s signature (a tradition that was preserved until the Late Middle Ages) and was intended for the artist to say “I was also there” rather than stare at himself.
One of the first self-portraits intended for such a purpose is Antonello Messina’s (1430-1479). In his self-portrait, this painter stares at himself as if he were his own judge. Depiction and discrepancy were endemic in the self-portraits to follow. Besides, there is a dilemma to be faced: the painter’s reaction to the face he is looking at transforms it. It happens to us all. All of us get depicted when we look at ourselves in the bathroom mirror; all of us adapt both our expression and face immediately; no one ever sees us in exactly the same way as we see ourselves in the bathroom mirror.
The self-portraits I admire the most are those by Rembrandt, Caravaggio, Munch, Van Gogh, Bacon, E. Shiele and Frida Kalho.
I believe that self-portraits will be a recurrent theme throughout my life, since I find room for meditation in the act of painting oneself. In the depiction of my image, it may get filtered some narcissistic sensibility, some tamed terror or even my desire to be there, after having vanished, and come into contact with those who are looking at it.
John Berger - The Shape of a Pocket