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The Arnolfini Wedding


Jan van Eyck(1395-1441)
The Arnolfini Wedding
Jan van Eyck: The Arnolfini Wedding. 1434, (one of the most famous paintings by the Flemish painter) Type: Oil on 3 vertical boards of oak panel Dimensions: 82.2 (panel 84.5) cm ? 60 (panel 62.5) cm (32.4 in ? 23.6 in) Location: National Gallery, London On this picture we see an aristocratic, well dressed couple. We see many other things in the painting, but cannot understand their significance without the knowledge of the symbolism in Old Dutch paintings. Giving hands and the oath gesture, was a sure sign to van Eyck's contemporaries that two people where giving their marriage vows. In the 15-th century, one needed neither a priest nor witness to enter into a legal marriage. This act could be done anywhere, even - as here - in a private home. At Arnolfini’s Wedding, however, we can be sure that there were witnesses. We see them in the mirror on the wall. Most likely they were there for something entirely different. In that time period, it was common to conclude a marriage contract between partners with great financial capacity. How do we know that the man is the one who had a fortune, and the woman came from a lower level of society? The answer lies in their hands. Tradition requires from the man to give his right hand to the woman. In this case he gives his left that suggests differences in their backgrounds. In such marriages, it was always the woman that belonged to a lower social class.

The woman here does not wear a white dress (this does not become common until the second half of 19. Century), she is dressed in sumptuous and festive garments. She is not pregnant, this was just the ideal of beauty in the late Gothic era. Fashion for men was not less extravagant than that for women. They wore highly intertwined turbans and huge top hats. The man here has delicate hands and narrow shoulders, indicating that he does not earn a living with hard work. Documents note that the Arnolfini was a banker.

Let us listen closely to the secret language of everyday objects as well. A candle’s flame is a symbol of Jesus Christ. A clean mirror and transparent rosary beads talk about the purity of the bride. A dog is a symbol of both wealth and faithfulness.

The Arnolfini wedding

Jan Van Eyck

Jan Van Eyck was one of the most influential painters of his times. This Flemish painter who lived from 1395 to 1441 crafted many masterpieces, giving Dutch paintings a character of their own. In 1434, he painted The Arnolfini Wedding, which is still one of the most stunning portraits in today’s world. Of his other works, Ghent Altarpiece, Portrait of a man, Madonna of Chancellor Rolin and Annunciation are pretty famous.

The painting

The Arnolfini Wedding is currently with the National Gallery in London. This portrait from the Renaissance period talks about the sanctity of marriage which is beautifully depicted by the artist. The painting shows how it was common in those days for a man from higher section of society to marry a woman from the lower strata of society. Depicting many Dutch traditions of those times, one sees that although there are no people in the room to witness the marriage, the mirror captures them to mark their presence in the room. The presence of a dog marks the loyalty and faithfulness that one promising each other in marriage. The candle’s flame Marks the blessings of Jesus Christ while the clear mirror and rosary beads are a symbol of the bride’s purity.

Conclusion

The Arnolfini Wedding is a beautiful portrait of a wedding which captures the essence of the 15th century. The portrait is indeed a masterpiece of this great Netherlandish painter. Marriage is depicted with this aristocratic couple as a symbol of lifetime companionship and faith in each other.

Jan Van Eyck is among the significant painters of their time who was well known for his innovation and use of technique while using oil paints. In fact it is believed that it was he who invented the art of oil painting. A royal painter, Jan Van Eyck, was a revolutionary master and his works are copied and reproduced till date by young artists.

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