The Arnolfini Portrait is an oil painting dated 1434 by the Early Netherlandish painter Jan van Eyck. It is also known as The Arnolfini Wedding and The Arnolfini Marriage. The painting is believed to represent the Italian merchant Giovanni di Nicolao Arnolfini and possibly his wife in their home in the Flemish city of Bruges.
The artist Van Eyck used a technique of applying layer after layer of thin translucent glazes to create a painting with an extreme amount of intensity of both tone and colour.
The couple are shown in an upstairs room with a chest and a bed in it during early summer as indicated by the fruit on the cherry tree outside the window.
The room may have functioned as a reception room, as it was the fashion in France. Beds were commonly used in reception rooms and used as seating during this period.
The interior also shows off many wealthy items of the time period. A brass chandelier is large and elaborate and would have been very expensive. The convex mirror at the back, is shown larger than such mirrors could actually be made at this date suggesting exaggeration from the artist. The elaborate red bed-hangings and the carvings on the chair and bench the wall suggest the persons in the paintings were well to do. In addition the expensive objects placed on the tables suggest a privileged couple.
At first, the depiction looks as if the woman is pregnant. Art historians believe the couple were not actually married until 13 years later, and when poor Giovanna died she was childless. In the painting Giovanna is portrayed in a style of dress common amongst women of that era. Her gesture (with her left hand on her stomach) may be an expression of the couple’s wish to produce an heir.
The two figures are very richly dressed, despite the summer weather. He wears a hat of plaited straw dyed black, as often worn in the summer at the time. His sleeveless coat appeared more purple as the pigments of the paint have faded over time. Underneath his clothing appears to be patterned, possibly silk damask. Her dress is a vibrant shade of emerald, with exquisite folded frayed decorative stitches on the sleeves, and a long train. Both outfits would have been enormously expensive in this period of time, although some scholars think their clothing may reflect a merchant status couple than a higher class aristocrats as other paintings tend to show more gold chains and patterned cloth.