Parmigianino's Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror

2018-2019

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Parmigianino’s Self-portrait in a Convex Mirror (1524), painted when he was barely twenty-one, plays cleverly with a convex mirror’s ability to offer a distorted representation of the person who looks into it. It is a painting which seeks to offer a “true”, undistorted representation of the distorting image: the wooden board on which the work was painted is convex, just like the mirror it pretends to be – leaving the viewer unsure of their own position when they see the young artist looking out at them from a distorted room. It is also a work that provides an important context for understanding Parmigianino’s later works in the Mannerist style, where bodies are often shown with unnatural proportions and distorted symmetry.

Factum Foundation was asked to create a facsimile of Self-portrait for the exhibition ‘Vertigo. Op Art and a History of Deception 1520 –1970’, which will run at MUMOK from 25 May to 26 October 2019; this will explore the Op-Art movement of the 1960s and its roots in historical artistic movements such as Mannerism, which have contemplated the nature of perception and illusion. Parmigianino's Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror belongs to the collections of the Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna and is on display in its Picture Gallery. The 3D data for the facsimile was recorded with the Lucida and colour was captured using panoramic photography following the methods used for the facsimile of Boucher’s portraits of Madame de Pompadour.

Carlos Bayod from Factum Foundation recording Self-portrait using a modified Lucida 3D scanner © Factum Foundation

The Lucida 3D scanner in action © Factum Foundation

Gabriel Scarpa capturing the colour data © Factum Foundation

Parmigianino’s elaborate illusion, however, significantly complicated the rematerialisation process. This is because it is impossible to print colour directly onto a convex surface. Instead, Factum’s innovative print studio worked with a flexible adhesive ‘skin’ that was moulded to take on the shape and subtle texture of a high-resolution 3D print of the surface made by Océ - A Canon Company. The colour was then printed onto the textured skin, a process which first required 'distorting' the digital data of the convex object such that it could be printed onto a flat surface. In the meantime, a convex board was digitally carved from high-density polyurethane using the shape obtained from the Lucida 3D data. Finally, the printed skin was attached to the convex board and the facsimile finished with varnish.

The images below show the process and methods used in the recreation of Self-portrait in a Convex Mirror - from colour printing to final facsimile.

Eduardo López Rodriguez prositioning the textured skin on the printer bed in preparartion for colour printing © Oak Taylor Smith for Factum Foundation

Rafa Rachewsky places an acetate plate printed with the relief information onto the skin - the acetate helps position the printer © Oak Taylor Smith for Factum Foundation

Rafa Rachewsky applies the 'digital ground' - a printing primer that holds the ink on the surface - onto the skin © Oak Taylor Smith for Factum Foundation

Rafa Racheewsky drying the digital ground © Oak Taylor Smith for Factum Foundation

Printing the colour data - initial printing tests © Oak Taylor Smith for Factum Foundation

Preparing the 3D files for the routing of the backboard © Oak Taylor Smith for Factum Foundation

Preparing the 3D files for the routing of the backboard © Oak Taylor Smith for Factum Foundation

Preparing the 3D files for the routing of the backboard © Oak Taylor Smith for Factum Foundation

The convex backboard being CNC routed from polyeurethane © Oak Taylor Smith for Factum Foundation

The convex backboard being CNC routed from polyeurethane © Oak Taylor Smith for Factum Foundation

Measuring the surface of the routed backboard prior to the application of the flexible adhesive ‘skin’ © Oak Taylor Smith for Factum Foundation

Sample tests showing various depths and surface settings from Océ's Elevated Printing Technology in order to perfect the facsimile's backboard. © Oak Taylor Smith for Factum Foundation

Sample tests showing various depths and surface settings from Océ's Elevated Printing Technology in order to perfect the facsimile's backboard. © Oak Taylor Smith for Factum Foundation

Sample tests showing various depths and surface settings from Océ's Elevated Printing Technology in order to perfect the facsimile's backboard. © Oak Taylor Smith for Factum Foundation

Sample tests showing various depths and surface settings from Océ's Elevated Printing Technology in order to perfect the facsimile's backboard. © Oak Taylor Smith for Factum Foundation

Final touches of paint to the facsimile © Oak Taylor Smith for Factum Foundation

Final touches of paint to the facsimile © Oak Taylor Smith for Factum Foundation

Facsimile of Self-portrait in a Convex Mirror © Oak Taylor Smith for Factum Foundation

The final facsimile - illustrating the convexity of the board © Oak Taylor Smith for Factum Foundation

The final facsimile - illustrating the convexity of the board © Oak Taylor Smith for Factum Foundation


With special thanks to the Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna and Markus Wörgötter, Eva Badura-Triska and Daniela Hahn at MUMOK.

Factum Foundation: Carlos Bayod, Gabriel Scarpa, Voula Paraskevi Natsi, Carlos Alonso, Jordi García Pons, Eduardo López Rodríguez, Rafa Rachewsky, Javier Barreno, Amanda Blazquéz Ávila, Silvia Álvarez, Maria Carmen del Pascual, Eva Rosenthal.

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