The Wedding Of Arnolfini

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorCollege, Undergraduate July 2001

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The Wedding of Arnolfini " A way had to be found to reconcile the new naturalism with a thousand years of Christian tradition, and this attempt resulted in what may be termed concealed or distinguished symbolism as opposed to open or obvious symbolism."� (Lane) Jan Van Eyck used marvelous realism and disguised symbolism in his paintings. An example of this would be the portrait of The Wedding of Arnolfini. Many different people have argued this portrait of the couple. One theory is that this is the actual marriage of the Arnolfini and his Lady, others believe that this portrait shows Arnolfini introducing his wife to visitors, or that he and his wife are simply welcoming guests into their home, claiming that they are already married. There are also many other disguised symbolisms that can tell the viewer about the couple.

One reason why many believe that they are being married is because of their hand gesture.

The hand gesture that is being portrayed in this portrait suggests an oath of being married. As shown in the portrait of the Wedding of Arnolfini, married couples would take an oath while holding hands and while the groom raised his forearm. This gesture is clearly shown in this painting, indicating that they are being married. The holding hand gesture also could be seen in many other paintings of weddings.

The mirror behind the couple has ten miniature medallions with carved scenes from the life of Christ, and there is also a rosary hanging next to the mirror, indicating that the couple is somewhat religious. The mirror actually reveals what would be seen by looking at the Arnolfini painting from behind. If the viewer looks carefully at the mirror image, they can see how detailed Jan Van Eyck painted this portrait. It shows...