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Art History: the Arnolfini Portrait - Essay Example

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The Arnofini Portrait The Arnolfini Portrait is an oil painting masterpiece of Jan van Eyck dated 1434. This painting of Jan Eyck is considered one of the most complex and original artwork in western painting. It was dated 1434 together with the the Ghent Altarpiece by the same artist and Hubert, his brother, who was also a famous painter…
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Art History: the Arnolfini Portrait
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Download file to see previous pages Van Eyck often inscribed his pictures in a witty way. The mirror reflects two figures in the doorway. One may be the painter himself. Arnolfini raises his right hand as he faces them, perhaps as a greeting (The National Gallery). Perhaps the genius of the painting was how it was composed. This was encapsulated in the words of Dr. Max J. Friedlander who hailed the miracle of the composition saying thus " In it a problem has been solved which no fifteenth-century painter was destined to take up again: two persons standing side by side, and portrayed full length within a richly furnished room . . ... a glorious document of the sovereign power of genius (Panofsky 124)." For about three quarters of a century Jan Eyck's full-length portrait of a newly married couple (or, to speak more exactly, a man and a woman represented in the act of contracting matrimony) has been almost unanimously acknowledged to be the portrait of Giovanni Arnolfini, a native of Lucca, who settled in Bruges before 1421 and latter attained the rank of a "Conseiller du Duc de Bourgogne" and "General des Finances en Normandie," and his wife Jeanne de Cename (or, in Itgalinan, Cenami) whose father, Guillame de Cename, also came from Lucca, but lived in Paris from teh beginning of the fifteenth century until his death. But owing to certain cicumstances which require some investigation, this identification has been disputed from time to time (Panofskly 117). Despite of all the dispute of who the woman in the picture was and how he was related Arnolfini, their joined hands in the painting depicted that she is Arnolfini’s legally married wife. This is was consistent with the norm of the time and the language of contract where a husband accords authority to the woman in her capacity as “wife and procurator”. The painting portrayed that the couple is already married and is now formalizing the legal arrangement of their marriage, that Giovanna Cenami, the wife can already transact business in her husband’s behalf (Carrol 98-100). This observation however runs counter to early theorists such as Panofsky who hypothesize that the painting was the portrayal of the wedding itself. Panofsky’s hypothesis however can easily debunked with questions why there are no people around given that the couple are wealthy people. In addition, considering that the setting was greatly Catholic at the time it was painted, this raises the question why was not held in a church in accordance with the tradition of the time. The absence of a priest makes the painting to be a wedding as suspect. There are many speculative questions and hypothesis about the painting but perhaps the painting is not precisely about the scene itself which led many scholars to debate but Jan Eyck’s artistic “sense”that he wants to share with us. And perhaps to teach succeding generation the precision of and exhaustiveness of his pictorial record (his vidimus) and to transcribe his view of the scene as faithfully as possible, even to the extent of exposing the artifice of his own illusionism. His grandiose notarial signature, may not have been intended to start debates among artists but just an acknowledgment of subjectivity that ultimately corroborates the authenticity of his representation (Carrol 118) The provenance of the painting When Jan van Eyck’s Arnolfini Portrait was done in 1434, it did not go directly to the National Gallery in London. It ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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