Arnolfini wedding portrait

(1434; London, National Gallery)
   More than the double portrait of the Italian merchant Giovanni Arnolfini and his wife, Giovanna Cenani, the Arnolfini Wedding Portrait is believed to be an actual marriage document. Signed and dated "Johannes de eyck fuit hic, 1434" on the back wall of the bedroom in which the scene unfolds, the elegant calligraphy employed is that normally used by notaries of the era on legal documents. The artist and a companion are reflected in the convex mirror below the signature and serve as the witnesses to the marriage. The groom has removed his shoes to denote that the event takes place in hallowed ground as marriage is one of the Church's sacraments. The dog in the foreground is a symbol of fidelity, while the single lit candle in the chandelier denotes the presence of the Lord, his Passion depicted in the roundels adorning the mirror frame. On the bedpost is a carving of St. Margaret, patron saint of childbirth, included to denote the hope of fertility, and a broom, symbol of cleanliness and domesticity. Finally, the oranges on the window sill symbolize the bride's dowry as they refer to the golden balls St. Nicholas threw through the window of the house of three sisters who could not marry for lack of dowries.

Historical dictionary of Renaissance art. . 2008.

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