This is one of many paintings and prints in which Beckmann used self-portraiture as a form of role playing. Here, he presented himself as a stern and successful businessman, holding a cigarette in a gesture of nonchalance or defiance. But at the lower left, almost imperceptible, is a red polkadot sash. A sly reference to the dress of a clown, it mocks and rebukes his mask of authority. Beckmann frequently portrayed himself in circus costume.
Gallery label from German Expressionism: The Graphic Impulse, March 27–July 11, 2011.