- Format: PDF
- Publisher: Vintage Books (January 1, 2012)
- Language: English
- 273 pages
- ISBN-10: 0099526891
- ISBN-13: 978-0099526896
The Arnolfini marriage portrait, as it is generally if perhaps inaccurately known, painted by Flemish artist Jan van Eyck, signed and dated 1434, has long been one of the most popular and enigmatic paintings of its time. Of modest size, a little less than three feet high, it is one of the oldest surviving panel pictures to be painted in oils rather than tempera. It is also regarded as the first work of art which simultaneously celebrates both middle-class comfort and monogamous marriage. Not surprisingly, very little is known for certain about who the sitters are. The common assumption is that it is a portrait commemorating the wedding of Giovanni Arnolfini, an Italian merchant, and his probably pregnant wife, who are seen at their home in Bruges. Is it a picture of the marriage ceremony, with the painter as a witness barely discernible in the mirror on the wall in the center – or a celebration of their union? Is the man a highly individualised portrait, and the woman just a stock image?
Carola Hicks, an acclaimed art historian, and witty, perceptive writer, died in 2010 just as she was finishing this book. Born in Sussex, Carola studied archaeology at Edinburgh University, and was an actress, journalist and House of Commons Researcher, before taking up an academic career. For several years she was curator of the Stained Glass Museum at Ely Cathedral, and then became a Fellow and Director of Studies in art history at Newnham College, Cambridge. Her books include Animals in Early Medieval Art, Improper Pursuits: The Scandalous Life of Lady Di Beauclerk, and two fine ‘biographies’ of works of art: The Bayeux Tapestry: The Life Story of a Masterpiece and The King’s Glass: A Story of Tudor Power and Secret Art.