"The Arnolfini Portrait" by Jan van Eyck
I first saw this painting in a very small size, perhaps a magnet or magazine clipping, on a cabinet in an art classroom during my senior year of high school. I was completely taken by it, though my passions and interests at the time were for very different genres and media, and I wouldn’t really take an interest in historical fashion until almost a year later (and even then, my focus was on Elizabethan England). But there was always something about this painting that drew me to the tiny copy of it hanging on the cabinet. I’m pretty sure I would gaze at it for at least a couple minutes every day.
Since then my interests in historical fashion (and, consequently, the art which gives us insight into how people dressed centuries ago) have expanded immensely, and when I rediscovered this painting in high resolution not long ago, I fell in love all over again, but this time more deeply, because now I had a new and very different appreciation for it.
Aside from being a stunningly executed painting, there are so many details, from the miniature paintings set around the mirror, to the reflections in the beads, to the broomstraw, as well as all the potential symbolism… I could gaze at and ponder this painting all day.
At the moment, I think my favorite detail is the inclusion of the pattens. I’d always been under the impression that they, being used to protect shoes from dirt/mud/etc., would be taken off upon entering a house, so to see them not just well within the home but in a scene such as this… I wonder why they’re there!
(Also: She’s not pregnant. It seems especially clear to me upon looking at the angle of the folds/fabric just below her bust… the fullness which gives the impression of pregnancy is just due to the impressive amount of rich, crisp fabric in her skirt, which she is holding up to reveal the skirt of the gown she wears below. There is a LOT of yardage there! My bank account trembles just THINKING about it! hehe)