James van Eyck. Arnolfini Double Portrait: Art Analysis Jan Van Eyck. Arnolfini Double Portrait. (1434) Oil on wood, 33 X 22 ? ” The National Gallery, London Jan van Eyck lived his life as a “valet de chambre”, which is basically a court painter. Van Eyck worked for John of Bavaria until 1425, which is coincidentally when John of Bavaria died. Then he went to work for Duke Philip the Good of Burgandy as a “valet de chambre” as well. Jan van Eyck was a well paid court employee when he first began work but within the first few years his salary was twice that of when he initially started.
His salary and position in the court system made Van Eyck a successful artist in comparison to other Netherlands artists, whose survival was dependent upon what they made from paintings alone. Jan van Eyck did paintings for private customers outside of his salaried job. One thing that is unique about Van Eyck is that he signs his paintings in rare and unusual places, an example is the Arnolfini Double Portrait. The Arnolfini Double Portrait is an oil painting that was done on an oak panel that was dated by Van Eyck in 1434.
This particular painting has been known by a couple of titles such as The Arnolfini Wedding, The Arnolfini Marriage and the Portrait of Giovanni Arnolfini and his Wife. This painting is not very large in size it measures 33 X 221/2” but it does have a large story to tell which is not exactly obvious in the painting itself. The painting is thought to be a portrait of Giovanni Arnolfini and his wife, in their home in the Flemish city of Bruges. This painting was bought by the National Gallery in London in 1842.
Today the painting is in really good condition considering how old it is, the paint loss is minimal and has been touched up. Van Eyck used vertical and horizontal lines to show the depth of the room as well as the objects in the room. At first glance, the painting is very realistic and depicts a man and a woman that are holding hands. The couple is obviously inside a room with a substantial amount of light coming through the windows, and the woman appears to be pregnant. The couple is assumed to be Giovanni di Arrigo
Arnolfini and his wife Giovanna Cenami and is supposedly painted in their bedroom. This particular painting is also suggested to be a form of a marriage certificate for the couple. Van Eyck has many hidden meanings to things in this painting. Once you look closer at the painting you will notice small things such as the chandelier candle holder only has one candle lit on the entire thing. This is supposed to symbolize marriage in the Flemish culture and the one candle being lit is also supposed to symbolize the presence of the Holy Spirit.
After doing some research on the painting I found out some really interesting information and different perspectives about this ordinary looking painting. I went to wiki first to look up the overall information about the Arnolfini Double Portrait. According to the wiki the way in which the couple is standing shows a conventional 15th century view on marriage and the roles. By the young woman standing next to the bed and being next to the man in the portrait shows her role as the caretaker while his position next to the open window shows that his role takes place outside of the house.
Another thing that Jan van Eyck did to symbolize the role of the two was by their gazes; Giovanni was looking straight ahead while she was not looking straight ahead but directly at her husband to her right. The way in which the couple’s hands are positioned is yet another indication of the roles in which the two play. His hand, according to wiki, represented his commanding position of authority, while her hand is in a more submissive position. This doesn’t directly mean that her role is any less than his but that they are on a more equal level.
Her face may be gazing at him, this shows that she is his equal because she is not looking down at the floor; by her not looking directly at the floor it also shows that the couple comes from wealth. I had learned in my art appreciation class from high school that the wife in the painting appears to be pregnant but actually was not. In that era it was the amount of material that measured your wealth, by the woman having an excess of material that she has to hold up symbolizes that they are a wealthy couple. Also an interesting fact that Mrs.
Guthrie shared was that the woman in the painting supposedly died without ever having a kid, so if that is the case then the woman could not be pregnant but only appears to be pregnant. After doing some more research and reading I found out that the style of clothing for wealthy woman was very similar to her dress, which further supports the reason for Van Eyck to paint her in that fashion. Another opinion of her attire is that it symbolizes fertility and the hope for a child in the future. The green color of her dress also means hope and the white cap could mean that she is either a virgin or already married to Giovanni.
The shoes being off and to the side of the room is said to be done out of respect for the wedding ceremony and to symbolize that the ceremony is taking place on what was known as holy ground. Another interesting fact I found was that during this era husbands would give their wives clogs to show stability and tranquility. Behind the couple you can notice that the curtains on the bed and bed set are both red which signifies love, and red on the bed shows the physical part of love as a married couple.
Van Eyck used many different things to signify the couple’s desire to have a child. The dog in the front center helps to symbolize this. If you look to the headboard you can see what is thought to be a carved figure of Saint Margaret who is supposed to be the saint of pregnancy and childbirth. You can look past the subjects and see that there is a mirror in the back of the room, you may not be able to correctly identify what is seen in the mirror unless you zoom in and look a little closer.
Once you look closely at the mirror you will see that around the frame of the mirror there are different scenes that are from the Passion of Christ and could quite possibly represent the promise of salvation from God. Also the thing that I found even more interesting was that Van Eyck painted himself and another person being present in the mirror. This further supports the idea that this painting is actually a form of a marriage certificate since there were witnesses present. Jan van Eyck did an awesome job on capturing this moment in time.
He created this painting with nice complimentary colors that have meaning behind them such as the uses of red and green. This particular painting he chose to use oil paint instead of the easier choice of tempera paint. With the oil paint he was able to blend the colors together by painting wet in wet to give the painting a three dimensional form. Van Eyck was truly a talented artist from his time and this particular painting shows just how talented he was. Works Cited http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Arnolfini_Portrait http://www. ibiblio. org/wm/paint/auth/eyck/arnolfini/