In honour of all the weddings taking place this June (including my own) I thought I would show the most famous wedding painting of them all: The Arnolfini Portrait, painted by the incredibly brilliant Flemish painter Jan van Eyck in 1434 and known to all first year students of art history as an excellent example of symbolism in painting.
The Arnolfini Portrait by Jan van Eyck, 1434. Image: Britannica.com
Historians still theorize about the purpose of the painting and whom, exactly it was depicting. Most agree that is was a portrait intended to commemorate a marriage and to display the wealth of the Italian merchant Giovanni Arnolfini and his wife. The many symbolic elements seem to add up to the depiction of a couple who are looking forward to life together, with numerous elements suggesting wealth, passion, loyalty, gender roles etc.
With its minute and extremely precise reflection of the scene in a convex mirror at the back of the room, it is a rather modern and admirably complex picture.
The painting is in London’s National Gallery.