The Arnolfini portrait

So much more to see 

than meets the eye!

So much more to see than meets the eye!

The Arnolfini Portrait

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The Arnolfini Portrait

Did you know?

The Arnolfini Portrait by Jan van Eyck was painted on oak panel in 1434 and is now housed at the National Gallery in London.

Note

The Arnolfini portrait still has many secrets . The information historians have gathered about this painting is often incomplete or debated , which is probably why it is so fascinating to this day. Keep in mind that the information below might be challenged by certain theories or scholars

Note

The Arnolfini portrait still has many secrets . The information historians have gathered about this painting is often incomplete or debated , which is probably why it is so fascinating to this day. Keep in mind that the information below might be challenged by certain theories or scholars

Van Eyck’s signature on the wall

1

The signature. It was painted by Early Netherlandish painter Jan van Eyck. The work was signed and dated “Johannes de Eyck fuit hic 1434” which translates to “ Jan van Eyck was here 1434 .

1

The signature. It was painted by Early Netherlandish painter Jan van Eyck. The work was signed and dated “Johannes de Eyck fuit hic 1434” which translates to “ Jan van Eyck was here 1434 .

2

The subjects. The work is believed to depict Italian merchant Giovanni di Nicolao Arnolfini and his wife , presumably in their residence in Bruges. 

2

The subjects. The work is believed to depict Italian merchant Giovanni di Nicolao Arnolfini and his wife , presumably in their residence in Bruges. 

Detail of the hands

3

The hands. The portrait has been considered as a unique form of marriage contract , recorded as a painting. This idea is now debated. 

3

The hands. The portrait has been considered as a unique form of marriage contract , recorded as a painting. This idea is now debated. 

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The chandelier and its subtle variations of light

4

The chandelier. There are many signs of wealth in the painting, but the chandelier is certainly one of the most obvious. Large and elaborate , it would have cost a small fortune. The single candle in the left-front holder of the ornate six-branched chandelier is possibly the candle used in traditional Flemish marriage customs .

4

The chandelier. There are many signs of wealth in the painting, but the chandelier is certainly one of the most obvious. Large and elaborate , it would have cost a small fortune. The single candle in the left-front holder of the ornate six-branched chandelier is possibly the candle used in traditional Flemish marriage customs .

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The woman’s left hand shows she is holding up her dress

5

The woman’s belly. Although Arnolfini’s wife looks pregnant, she is not believed to be. This look was simply the trend of the time. Being cloth merchant, fashion would have been important to the Arnolfini. The more cloth a person wore, the wealthier he or she was assumed to be. 

5

The woman’s belly. Although Arnolfini’s wife looks pregnant, she is not believed to be. T his look was simply the trend of the time. Being cloth merchant, fashion would have been important to the Arnolfini. The more cloth a person wore, the wealthier he or she was assumed to be. 

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Detail of the mirror

6

The mirror. The mirror reflects two figures in the doorway, one of whom may be Jan van Eyck himself . Are they the two witnesses required for the wedding? Is the mirror representing the eye of God observing the wedding? 

6

The mirror. The mirror reflects two figures in the doorway, one of whom may be Jan van Eyck himself . Are they the two witnesses required for the wedding? Is the mirror representing the eye of God observing the wedding? 

7

The mirror’s frame. The small medallions set into the frame of the mirror show tiny scenes from the Passion of the Christ .

7

The mirror’s frame. The small medallions set into the frame of the mirror show tiny scenes from the Passion of the Christ .

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A tree gives us indication of the season

8

The tree. The cherry tree in bloom visible through the window on the left gives us indication that the portrait was made during early Summer .

8

The tree. The cherry tree in bloom visible through the window on the left gives us indication that the portrait was made during early Summer .

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Who’s a good boy?

9

The dog. The little dog, possibly a Brussels Griffon, may symbolize fidelity and loyalty . He could only be a lapdog, a gift from the husband to his wife. 

9

The dog. The little dog, possibly a Brussels Griffon, may symbolize fidelity and loyalty . He could only be a lapdog, a gift from the husband to his wife. 

From Our Collection

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The Grand Museum of Art - Second Edition

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100 Masterpieces Scratch Poster

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