Object of the Month: September 2021

Published: 27 August 2021

Chosen by

Kellie Sabin, Postgraduate Researcher, University of Nottingham


Fine Art

Object Name

Nude with Mirror (Self-Portrait)

Paula Modersohn-Becker (1876-1907) Pencil/charcoal sketch on paper 1906

Purchased from the Gillian Jason Gallery, 1988


This sketch of a woman holding a mirror looks hastily drawn; an impression made quickly and fluidly. But what makes it remarkable is that it was a preparatory study for the first female nude self-portrait in art history. The poet Rainer Maria Rilke describes the moment perfectly in his poem ‘Requiem for a Friend’ which he wrote in tribute to German artist Paula Modersohn-Becker:

And at last, you saw yourself as a fruit, you stepped out of your clothes and brought your naked body before the mirror, you let yourself inside down to your gaze; which stayed in front, immense, and didn’t say: I am that; no: this is.

The Object of the Month can be seen in person throughout September at Leicester Museum & Art Gallery.