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Check Out Our "The Arnolfini Portrait" Essay

The Arnolfini Portrait is an oil painting done by Van Eyck on an oak panel of three vertical boards. It belonged to Giovanni Arnolfini and his wife, in 1516, it was with Diego who transferred it to Margaret in 1516 and later inherited by Mary of Austria. Phillip ?? inherited it after her death in 1558 and was later seen in Madrid by a certain German in 1559. In 1794 it was moved to Palacio Nuevo in Madrid. James Hay, a Scott possessed it in 1816 and was bought by the National Gallery in London in 1842.

Historians believe that this is a double portrait of Giovanni and one of his wives made in the early 16th century. The man in the portrait could be Nicolao or his cousin Arrigo, tentative postulates say that this could be a memorial portrait showing appreciation of  Arnolfini’s first wife, Constanza.

Van Eyck made the painting on an oak and created a reflective surface by applying several layers of translucent glazes. Evidences of wealth are; rich dressing, large brass chandelier, elaborate bed hangings and small oriental carpet. There are scenes from Christ’s crucifixion on the spotless mirror meant to show the mirror as an eye of God.

The scene is religious, first is the fact that the woman is wearing a head dress, a custom of many religions as a sign of respect. The mirror has scenes from the passion of Christ, which is a Christian teaching. There is a rosary and a brush on either side of the mirror, a clear depiction of Christian teachings of prayer and working or the fact that a broom cleans.

There is a cherry outside the window shows the summer season and it represents love. Illusionism is by creating a three dimensional image by painting on top of wet paint. They are richly dressed symbolic of their vast wealth. Eyck shows departure from realism by making the mirror bigger than they would have been made at that time probably a sign of industrialization. The painter put an inscription on the wall probably to show the use of parables and proverbs at the time. Her hand is placed horizontally on his vertical hand a sign of humility and submissiveness and to him, a sign of his role as the head of the family.

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