Literature Study GuidesSelf Portrait In A Convex Mirror

Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror | Study Guide

John Ashbery

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Course Hero. "Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror Study Guide." December 1, 2019. Accessed January 18, 2021.


Course Hero, "Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror Study Guide," December 1, 2019, accessed January 18, 2021,



John Ashbery

First Published






Perspective and Narrator

"Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror" is written primarily in the first-person voice. The pronouns occasionally shift to the second-person you in a way that is meant to be inclusive of general human experience. The speaker also specifically addresses much of the poem in second person to the artist Parmigianino, whom he familiarly refers to as Francesco. The speaker is an educated man living in New York City who is viewing and considering the c. 1524 painting "Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror" by Italian artist Parmigianino (1503–40). The stream of consciousness style of writing (uninterrupted flow of thought) follows the musings that the painting inspires in the speaker on the nature of creating art.


"Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror" is written principally in the present tense.

About the Title

"Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror" is the name of a c. 1524 painting by the Italian Renaissance artist Parmigianino (1503–40), which the poem describes in its opening lines and refers to throughout. Ashbery uses the distortion and artifice of the unusual painting to talk about the tensions inherent in the act of creation, both in painting and in writing.


This study guide for John Ashbery's Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror offers summary and analysis on themes, symbols, and other literary devices found in the text. Explore Course Hero's library of literature materials, including documents and Q&A pairs.


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