VanEyck. (Worked: 1422-1441)
is regarded as the founder of the Flemish school of painting. He worked
for Philip the Good, the Duke of Burgundy, who at the time was the most
powerful ruler in Flanders. His painting of the wedding shows a double
portrait. The couple is Arnolfini, a successful banker,and Giovanna Cenami,
from a wealthy Italian family. This painting is considered to be full of
symbolism. The work acts as a certificate of marriage, recording a commentary
15th Century morality. The painting demonstrates VanEyks excellent skills
in depicting detail and also shows his technique in oil painting. The drawing
to the left depicts the composition of the painting. In between the two
figures, written in lavish Gothic script, reads "Johannes de Eycy fruit
hic 1434",(Jan VanEyck was here in 1434). The artist has also included
his reflection in the mirror below, indicating his presence at a specific
moment. Some have suggested that he was a witness to the marriage.
crystal prayer beads to the left of the mirror were a typical engagement
present from a prospective husband to his future bride. Crystal is a symbol
of purity and the beads suggest the bride's virtue and her duty to remain
devout. The bed to the right of Giovanna Cenami has symbolic importance;
especially in Nobel housed where continuity of the line was important.
The bed also represents a place where we enter the world and leave it at
death. The red colour of the bedclothes Giovanna wears is a fashionable
green dress. Green is the symbolic colour of fertility. She is not pregnant:
the pose simply emphasises the stomach, which at the time was regarded
as a focus of beauty. It could also perhaps indicate fertility?
the 15th Century marriage was the only Christian sacrament that did not
require a priest to attend. It could take place in private with two witnesses.
Because of the reflection in the mirror of the two people, it has been
suggested that the picture is, in effect, a legal document certifying Arnolfini`s
single lit candle was placed next to the newlyweds to encourage fertility.
The linked hands are central to Christian marriage, satisfying the unity
of two people as one. The linked hands also unify the picture, and the
chandelier echoes their shape above. Finally the expensive fruit (oranges)
to the left of Arnollfini were imported from the south, and were luxury
goods in Northern Europe, known as "Adam's apples" oranges are also used
to represent the forbidden fruit in the garden of Eden. This refers to
the deadly sin of lust. Mankind's sinful instincts are sanctified through
the Christian ritual of marriage.