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
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.
This object is currently on view at the Museum's Renwick Gallery.
For more information about this work visit the Luce Foundation Center.
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
metal - gold
metal - silver
stone - opal
stone - pearl
About William Harper
Born: Bucyrus, Ohio 1944