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Self-Portrait of the Artist as a Haruspex by William Harper / American Art
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Self-Portrait of the Artist as a Haruspex

1990 William Harper Born: Bucyrus, Ohio 1944 gold, sterling silver, cloisonné enamel, opal, pearl, coral, shell, carapace 11 1/2 x 2 1/2 x 2 1/4 in. (29.2 x 6.4 x 5.8 cm.) Smithsonian American Art Museum Gift of the James Renwick Alliance and museum purchase through the Smithsonian Institution Collections Acquisition Program © 1990, William Harper 1991.137 Not currently on view



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A haruspex was a diviner or soothsayer in ancient Rome who "read" the future from the entrails of sacrificial animals. In Self-Portrait the shape of the inlaid coral spills out like entrails, while the features of the cloisonne face symbolize the artist's condition. The blackened left eye represents William Harper's blindness, and the protrusion from the forehead (the "carapace," or protective covering) is a metaphorical shield from his painful migraines. This is one of a series of self-portraits showing Harper as a mystic from different cultures.

Keywords

Abstract

Dress - accessory - hat

Occupation - art - artist

Occupation - religion - clergy

Portrait male - Harper, William - full length

Portrait male - Harper, William - self-portrait

decorative arts - jewelry

Crafts - Metal

animal parts - shell

coral

enamel

metal - gold

metal - silver

stone - opal

stone - pearl