Beyond Gobbledigook

Jan van Eyck. The betrothal of the Arnolfini, 1434. Oil on wood, 81.8 x 59.7 cm, 32 1/4 x 23 1/2 in; National Gallery, London.

Posted in Oil on wood by Jessica on February 24, 2009

Jan van Eyck. The betrothal of the Arnolfini, 1434. Oil on wood, 81.8 x 59.7 cm, 32 1/4 x 23 1/2 in; National Gallery, London.

When I had first learned about Jan van Eyck, I wasn’t very impressed–I didn’t like the way he drew people’s eyes. The people always just looked very stern. I dismissed his work entirely and didn’t even consider him an influential painter, despite my professor and my readings saying so. But after learning more about his work, I came to greatly appreciate the fine details he puts into his paintings.

Jan van Eyck, in fact, is the inventor of oil-painting. Before, painters used egg-whites mixed with pigments, but this was extremely viscous and it dried quickly, not allowing for much freedom. With oil-painting, the painter is allowed to choose how much oil goes in. And most importantly, it gives the painter much more time and gives the paint a sort of “gleam” or “glaze,” as a transparent layer of oil can be placed on top a matted paint of say, red. It is that invention that allowed van Eyck to add such detail to all his paintings.

This painting, The betrothal of the Arnolfini, is perhaps his most famous. It depicts the betrothal of an Italian merchant, Giovanni Arnolfini, and Jeanne de Chenany. The painting seems fairly “standard,” but if one looks at it more closely, it tells so much more.

Instead of simply signing it with his name, Jan van Eyck signs it very obviously, in the middle, on top of the mirror.

He writes “Johannes de eyck fuit hic” (Jan van Eyck was here), as though a witness to the sacred event. He put himself in the painting.

My favorite part of the painting is the mirror.

Looking closely, van Eyck painted a reflection of the entire scene in a “fish-eye” sense, to once again, include himself in the painting as a witness. The detail is never-ending–the back of Jeanne’s dress, the chandelier, and the curve of the window.

What I like so much about this painting is that it is more than a painting, especially with so much of van Eyck’s inclusion of himself in the painting. What I also learned from my professor is that there are theories that the painting is not just a depiction of a betrothal, but hidden meanings. The sandals, the one candle on the chandelier, and the dog. Arguments have been made that the sandals mirror the scene in which God tells moses to “take his shoes off,” and Arnolfini’s doing so shows his reverence towards the betrothal. The dog is a faithful dog, a faithful companion, as do two people need to be faithful to one another when marrying. And the candle is the presence of God through light. Of course, it is all speculative and opponents have said that the dog is just “hanging around,” but really? Would van Eyck just put a dog in that was hanging around?

My professor said that he has not decided whether or not he believes the theories and I don’t think I have either. For now, I will just appreciate the painting and the mystery behind it.

J

5 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. johan baptiste said, on July 11, 2009 at 4:15 PM

    Well, Robert Campin used oil before Van Eyck

  2. False Nails said, on December 2, 2010 at 6:04 PM

    the good thing about oil paintings is that they last very long, they can even last for generations ,’~

  3. sexmovievault.com said, on May 29, 2013 at 3:21 AM

    I know this if off topic but I’m looking into starting my own weblog and was wondering what all is required to get setup? I’m assuming having a
    blog like yours would cost a pretty penny?
    I’m not very web smart so I’m not 100% certain. Any suggestions or advice would be greatly appreciated.
    Many thanks

  4. Lula said, on July 8, 2013 at 10:53 PM

    Moreover, the LTO 4 drives also come into play as they can be scheduled, determining Online Backup Services and recovery solution.
    Equally important and the deal breaker for other services is
    the perceived loss of control once the data leaves the” safety” of the company’s existing server racks eats up around 4. Then, you should consider the following statistic data. Printed in USA All rights reserved. Safe Sync has a desktop interface that you use to Online Backup Services your hard disks.

  5. beauty salon said, on September 11, 2013 at 12:27 PM

    They are running a business and need to cover there huge overhead.
    None of that appears to have happened at the Santa Maria nightclub.
    Experts warn that too many hoteliers remain ignorant of or are flouting
    their responsibilities for hair extensions.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: