Mirror, Mirror, on the Wall

Self-Portrait as a Painter

‘a portrait that I painted in the mirror’

Since Van Gogh used a mirror to paint himself, he is shown in mirror image. He therefore appears to be holding his palette in his right hand and painting with his left. In reality, the reverse applied.

This is also clear from the portrait of him made by his friend Russell. In this portrait, Van Gogh holds his brush in his right hand.

John Peter Russell, Vincent van Gogh, 1886

Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam (Vincent van Gogh Foundation)


Curiously, the jacket has not been reversed. It is buttoned left over right, in the customary way for men's clothing. 

In a later self-portrait, Van Gogh partly corrected his mirror image: he now appears to be holding the palette in his left hand. Van Gogh painted himself from the right here. His left ear is not visible. We know that it was mutilated by then, since he had cut off part of it in a fit of insanity.

Self-Portrait, 1889

National Gallery of Art, Washington