Skeleton by Caspar Berger – Project description

The self-portrait – or ‘mirror portrait’ (ritratto allo specchio) as the earlier Italian painters referred to it – is not a common genre in the history of sculpture. The reason that sculptors have rarely portrayed themselves is a prosaic one: for a long time they had no way of seeing themselves in three dimensions.

The phenomenon of the self-portrait in art history is central to my work as a sculptor. In the series of self-portraits I have made over the years, I have constantly sought new approaches to the phenomenon. In doing so I not only investigate the autonomous self-portrait from the perspective of its technical and physical obstacles, but I also examine my own person from a historical, mental and social perspective.

The last self-portrait I made centred on skin, the essential boundary between the external (appearance) and internal (inner self) as a personal or cultural membrane. The question was whether the ‘pure portrait’ does not consist merely of ‘skin’, as all that is directly visible and tangible, and how much ‘self’ is needed to create a true likeness.

Where my last portrait was about flexible skin, I have now turned to what supports the body: the skeleton. I see the skeleton as the basis of the physical body, but also as the carrier of our ‘eternal identity’, which long after we are gone continues to reveal who we were.

In art there is a rich history of images that take as their subject the form and structure of the body. Take the sketches by Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo on the physiology and proportions of the human body, for example, or Rembrandt’s The Anatomy Lesson of Dr Nicolaes Tulp, which shows the urge to understand the body scientifically. The skeleton has a distinctive role in such works; it is the symbol of our mortality. This symbolism has been portrayed for centuries in vanitas paintings.

The functioning of our bodies as biological machines is fascinating and a source of wonder. Driven by the desire to discover and understand the workings of the body, science is close on the heels of these secrets of our being. Yet although medical science has proved capable of achieving the unimaginable, it still has not been able to unravel the mystery of life.

In Skeleton I have made use of the incredible possibilities to reveal the invisible that modern medical techniques offer, in order to make tangible what lies beneath the skin. I have had my entire body scanned using the very latest CT scanner, which can divide the body into cross-sections measuring just half a millimetre. The digital information reveals my bones individually. This data can be made compatible for use by a 3D printer to produce the most accurate possible copy of my skeleton. I can then make silicone moulds of the bones that make up the skeleton. This allows me to cast copies of my skeleton in bronze, silver and plaster.

Skeleton has been made possible with the support of:
medical Systems Europe, Zoetermeer: J. Ruis, R. Verlaan, D. Blesing.
Contact via:

‘t Lange Land Ziekenhuis, Zoetermeer: Jan Willem Kuiper.
Contact via:

RP2, Etten-Leur: Mike de Winter, Ron Klauss.
Contact RP2 via

Duyts Bouwconstructies BV, Amsterdam: Joran Grentzius.
Contact Duyts Bouwconstructies BV via