The Arnolfini wedding

Jan VanEyck. (Worked: 1422-1441)

VanEyck 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. 
The 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?
During 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 marriage.
The 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.