AMERLING Friedrich von
Emperor Franz I commissioned works from Amerling, as did many members of Vienna's trend-setting society, whose awareness of life he captured in elegant settings and vivid colours. From the early 30s – he produced his first work for the emperor in 1832 – to approximately 1850, he was Vienna's most celebrated portraitist and, even in his old age, he remained highly esteemed in the metropolis. From 1815–1824, Amerling studied at the Vienna Academy; subsequently he attended the Academy in Prague until 1826. From August 1827 until March 1828, he lived in London. There he applied himself to the study of English art and in particular of the leading portrait painters from Joshua Reynolds (1723–1792) to Thomas Lawrence (1769–1830). It is thought that Amerling was indebted to Lawrence for the brilliant luminosity and transparency of his colouring.
When Amerling painted this likeness in 1834, he was at the height of his career. One year before, he had had to cut short his stay in Rome because of a commission to portray Emperor Franz I in his coronation robes. This commission opened all doors to Amerling.
In his own portrait, the artist depicted himself in profile from the left and with a serious and attentive look. He dispensed with any attributes of his art, such as brush or easel, and did not adopt an artificial pose, contenting himself with a clearly circumscribed partial view. It is his self-confident and elegant appearance that lends consequence to the sitter. Exquisitely dressed and with fashionable side-whiskers, he radiates the social address of a much-travelled man of the world and member of the ton. The collar and neckcloth contrast effectively with the dark waistcoat and coat. In contrast to the usually idealised depictions of women, this portrait, like other likenesses of men, evidences Amerling's endeavour to capture the sitter's personality. The artist executed "character studies" of himself into his old age, using them, inter alia, to experiment with pictorial techniques, which explains why the area around the head in the present self-portrait is unfinished and the texture of the coarse canvas clearly visible. This work formed part of the artist's studio estate.
Gabriele Groschner, Thomas Habersatter, Erika Mayr-Oehring (Hrsg.): Meisterwerke. Residenzgalerie Salzburg. Salzburg 2001, S. 114, 116