Even more than in the paintings of fellow "Transavantgardists" Chia and Cucchi, the self-portrait is pivotal in Clemente's art. It serves both as a central motif and as a point of departure, where autobiography leads to epic and enigmatic myth-making. Influenced in part by German Expressionism, Giorgio de Chirico and Eastern Religion, Clemente believes the artist to be a kind of spiritual "seer" through whose eyes diverse cultures merge and co-exist without hierarchy. For him the world is in constant flux and evolution.
The present painting is a seminal work and belongs to the most important period in Clemente's career. It depicts him as an embodiment of the principle of transformation; like an Indian deity, his giant mask-like features evolve and transform. He is at once the symbol of birth, death and transmutation. This possibility for change is reiterated in the background where swastikas, the Indian symbol for eternity, are converted on the right to crosses.