The Arnolfini Portrait Symbolism

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The Arnolfini Portrait, 1434 (82 X 60 cm) is an oil painting that dates back to the early renaissance, painted by the Netherlandish artist Jan Van Eyck on 3 vertical oak panels. It was painted in Bruges, France, for the wealthy merchant from Lucca, Giovanni Arnolfini along with his wife in the comfort of their home. The painting has been in The National Gallery of London since 1842. The painting shows a couple standing in the middle of a bedroom, holding hands and in formalized poses. They are richly dressed and both their garments are lined with fur despite that the painting was painted in the summer as evident by the blossomed cherry tree shown outside their window. That window and a single lit candle in the chandelier above them…show more content…
Some of the most important ones are: the single burning candle in the chandelier and how it could refer to Christ’s divine presence and the all-seeing eye of god, the two pairs of shoes on the floor indicates that while it’s a bedroom its also a sacred space, although it might have some erotic meaning, the dog signifies fidelity and loyalty, and it also could have some erotic associations, the oranges on the window sill and the chest may symbolize the fertility of the wife or the wealth that this couple had as fruit that time was very expensive and had to be imported, the brush symbolizes domestic care and gender roles as it is on the woman’s side, the carved figure on the chair beside the bed is of Saint Margret, the patron saint of childbirth, the inscription on the wall that reads “ Johannes de Eyck fuit hic, 1434” is in Latin and translates to “Jan van Eyck was here, 1434”, and the most intriguing of all is the convex mirror on the back wall, it is surrounded by ten small circles each depicting a scene of The Christ’s Passion, the reflection in the mirror shows two other figures that stands in front of the couple. One of the figures (the figure in red) is believed to be Jan van Eyck himself, evidence of that could be his painting “the man in the red turban” which is believed to be a self portrait, and in his painting “Madonna with chancellor Rollin”, a man in a red turban is seen at the back which is also said to be
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