William Joseph Kentridge (South African, born 1955) Anamorphic self portrait
Lot 214*
William Joseph Kentridge (South African, born 1955) Anamorphic self-portrait
£40,000 - 60,000
US$ 67,000 - 100,000
Lot Details
William Joseph Kentridge (South African, born 1955)
Anamorphic self-portrait
Charcoal and coloured pencil on paper with cylindrical mirror (13x9cm)
76 x 55cm (29 15/16 x 21 5/8in).


    Purchased by the current owner from Liza Nicole Fine Art, Johannesburg

    Kentridge's art offers an ongoing dialogue with various modes of seeing, representing and knowing the world. Interested in historical optical devices, he has produced works inspired by and created according to the models of vision proposed by shadowgraphs (Shadow Procession, 1999) and stereoscopes (Stereoscope, 1999) as well as magic lanterns, camera obscuras, and zoetropes (all of which are referenced in Black Box/Chambre Noire, 2005, amongst other works). Many of these optical frameworks revolve around the illusion of coherent space: Kentridge's harnessing of their formal possibilities powerfully reveals the constructed nature of representation.

    Anamorphosis presents a challenge to conventional, linear perspective: the immediate image appears distorted until seen from a particular, oblique angle (notably employed in Hans Holbein the Younger's The Ambassadors, 1533), and its use requires a profound grasp of mathematical rules. Kentridge dates his anamorphic experiments to an artistic residency at Umbria's Civitella Ranieri Centre in 1996. During the residency, he visited the Science Museum in Florence and encountered anamorphic works from the early Renaissance. Returning to his lodgings, he discovered that a local repairman, busy fixing the radiators, had left a trail of bright, reflective piping along the corridors.

    These serendipitous experiences led the artist to experiment with sketching anamorphic images which could only be properly interpreted via a cylindrical mirror, adding a further layer of perception to the anamorphic interplay. His experiments would develop into several anamorphic landscapes, as well as the 2007 anamorphic film installation What Will Come (has already come).

    As an anamorphic self-portrait, the current lot is highly unusual. Traditionally, a self-portrait supposes the use of a mirror: Kentridge adds the twist of simultaneously needing to look in the small cylindrical mirror at the centre of the drawing surface in order to ensure that what he is drawing coheres in reflection. The resulting work thus presents a compelling union of the artist's thematic interests and technical accomplishments, brought together in his own image.

    A. Breidbach and W. Kentridge, William Kentridge: Thinking Aloud, Conversations with Angela Breidbach, (Cologne, 2006)
    J. Taylor, 'The Eye of the Beholder', in William Kentridge: (Repeat) From the Beginning, (Milan, 2008), pp. 83-93

Saleroom notices

  • Please note, the cylindrical mirror is contained in a hand-decorated box dated 2005. The mirror can be placed on the lid of the box, resulting in further anamorphic effects.
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