Symbolism and Multiple Meanings in Jan Van Eyck's Wedding Portrait

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Symbolism and the Multiple Meanings in Jan Van Eyck's Arnolfini Wedding Portrait

Throughout the Renaissance, many talented artists tried to express deep symbolism in their paintings, but no one came close to the ability of Jan Van Eyck. His paintings were so accurate and realistic that it was necessary for him to paint his miniaturists with a single strand of hair, on a brush. Jan's Arnolfini Wedding Portrait (1434) is so photo-realistic that it has been debated for decades of it's legality of a wedding document. This paper will help to understand Jan's extreme use of symbolisms and the multiple meanings of his Arnolfini wedding scene. Today it is almost impossible to prove that this painting was an official wedding document.
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When getting into bed, most people take off their shoes, as seen on the floor in front of Arnolfini (figure 7). Those shoes are not shoes of a working class woman but shoes of wealth. There is a dog on the floor towards the bottom of the painting (figure 8). This isn't a normal dog but a fancy lap dog that only the rich would have owned. The dog also represents fidelity or in other words Arnolfini's faithfulness of his marriage. Giovanni Arnolfini is the male on the left and Giovanna Cenami is the female on the right. The couple's lifestyle is symbolized by their material goods and posture. There is a convex mirror on the back wall that has tiny scenes of Christ's passion around it (figure 4). These small scenes would depict the couples love for Christianity. Jan would also make the scenes so obviously small so that the viewer would be intrigued and reminded of their faith. There are also prayer beads to the left of the convex mirror and they would also depict Christianity (figure 3). Like most of the painting of this time, religion played a huge role and if Jan wanted the church to support this painting he would have been forced to add religion to the painting. Arnolfini was a brilliant cloth merchant and was born around 1400ad. He resided in Bruges and died in 1472. Arnolfini was closely tied to the court of Burgundy. Because of guild rules, Jan was only allowed to work with and for people

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