AN EXPLORATION OF ART HISTORY
Giovanni Arnolfini and his Wife by Jan van Eyck is a very interesting painting that has caused many to disagree on the subject. The portrait is of Giovanni di Nicolao Arnolfini and his wife. Some people believe that this painting was a record for the couples wedding however, this is not the case. Arnolfini’s wife is not pregnant, as is often thought, but instead holding up her full-skirted dress. Arnolfini was a member of a merchant family from Lucca living in Bruges.
This painting holds such intrigue because each object and gesture is a clue to the story behind the couple. The couple are shown in an interior filled with symbols and religious connotations. One of the most interesting parts of the piece is the mirror, where a reflection of two figures in the doorway is carefully and masterfully painted. One of the figures has been thought to be Jan van Eyck himself. Arnolfini raises his hand as he faces toward them, perhaps as a greeting. The dog symbolizes loyalty and is the only character in the painting looking at the guests. In the chandelier there is one candle that symbolizes the eye of God. The shoes on the side are a symbol of fertility. Each detail that van Eyck added has a purpose to tell a story. Even the color of the clothing and bedding has meaning within the piece.
Jan van Eyck signed the painting in an unusual place. Above the mirror, in the center of the painting, there is a Latin signature that translates as “Jan van Eyck was here 1434.” Eyck saw this as humorous and tended to sign his paintings in witty ways.
Katie and I wanted to replicate this painting in some way because we both found the symbols and hidden messages intriguing. In our photo replication we knew that there was no way we would be able to replicate the photo exactly, so we picked out a few key objects and decided to make the photo humorous. In the photos we incorporated a stuffed dog, shoes, and a mirror, held by Dehlia Mitchell-Gray. We tried to dress the models, Alec Fisher and our very own Katie McClellend, in clothing that was similar to the clothing in the painting. We added the sunglasses in the end for a modern and funny twist.