Commentary on the Arnolfini Wedding by Jan Van Eyck, 1434

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The subject matter in this painting is an obviously prosperous man and his bride in their bed chamber. The bride has put her right hand into her husband’s left. Similarly, he is about to put his right hand into hers. This painting holds many symbolic representations. First, the Symbolic objects and figures include a little dog in the centre that seems to represent fidelity, while oranges on the chest could signify fertility. A close look at the spotless mirror in the background reveals the reflections of the couple as well as the artist. The inscription above the mirror says, “Johannes de Eyck fuit hic, 1434,” that is translated as, “Jan van Eyck was here”. A cherry tree is also shown in full bloom outside the window, seemingly symbolic of love. The man’s hand is vertically raised, showing authority, while the wife’s hand is placed in a horizontal position symbolizing a somewhat submissive posture. The woman is dressed in green symbolizing hope and fertility, while her white cap symbolizes purity.

Van Eyck used Oil paint, and complementary colors. Lines converge in the room creating an illusion of depth heightening the realism of the scene. Van Eyck took advantage of the longer drying time of oil paint to blend colors by painting wet-in-wet to achieve subtle variations in light and shade to heighten the illusion of three-dimensional forms. He used mostly red and green colors to depict life and draw a picture of realism. For example, the red bed compliments the green dress worn by the bride. The Purple in Giovanni’s garb is complimentary to the yellows found in the chandelier and room surrounding Arnolfini. The oranges on the window sill complement the blue parts of his bride’s dress. There is a harmony and balance between different parts of the room and figures in it. The colors in his painting are delicate and have a beautiful shine. Light also plays a big part in this painting. Jan van Eyck was able to play with light and shade effects in the painting to create a three-dimensional effect but he especially used light to evoke space in an interior. Van Eyck created a painting with an almost reflective surface by applying layer after layer of translucent thin glazes. He also carefully distinguished textures and captured surface appearance precisely. Transparent, tinted layers add subtle effects like depth to the artwork. The style of painting is consistent throughout and the dominance of the complementary colors helps to unify the composition.

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Van Eyck’s skill in the use of oils is powerfully demonstrated in this work. The depth of color and realistic texture and light show a mastery of technique. The Arnolfini Marriage is a work quite representative of the Netherlanders style of the 15th century, a style that Van Eyck helped to create. The meticulous detail and the use of light became hallmarks of the Northern Renaissance and were copied by other great artists.



Oil on Panel

Raphael’s painting “The Marriage of the Virgin” is a beautiful piece to behold. It shows placing the marriage ring on the Virgin Mary’s finger and holding the flowering staff, which is the symbol that he is the chosen one, in his left hand. His wooden staff has blossomed, while those of the other suitors have remained dry. Also seen are two of the disappointed suitors are breaking their staffs.

Raphael used oil paints and vibrant primary colors. In Raphael’s Marriage of the Virgin, he uses one point perspective, balanced composition, and vibrant primary colors to convey a sense of stability and order, thus representing the Christian narrative in the idealized, harmonious aesthetics of the Renaissance. In the focus, a man and woman stand on either side of a central figure, their adjoining hands creating a focal point which extends back to the doorway on the horizon line. The orthogonal lines created by the tiled pavement move the viewer’s eye along the same central path and emphasize the perfect perspective of the scene. The deep hues of yellow and green in the central man’s clothing complement the red and blue in the woman’s, and form the palette for the rest of the onlookers, a simple, pure combination of colors that contributes to the sense of order. This painting has a three dimensional depth.The almost perfect symmetry of the scene, as well as the relatively empty middle ground, underscores both the spiritual theme and the aesthetic values of the time.

Raphael’s Marriage of the Virgin demonstrates an impressive mastery of the orthodox description of architectural forms in space. This artwork marks the beginning of Raphael’s personal style. The moment depicted in the painting is derived from The Golden Legend, a thirteenth-century collection of stories about the saints’ lives. The painting shows a great influence of the compositional styling of contemporary artists, as well as a strong inspiration of his former master. This work of art shows the marriage ceremony which is a symbol of union between husband and wife, although in this case it can be interpreted as mankind’s union with God through Christ. The orthogonal of the plaza tiles lead to a central vanishing point at the open doorway of the building, which corresponds to the architectural ideal of antiquity and the Renaissance.

Venus of Urbino

Titian, 1538

Oil on Canvas.

In the Venus of Urbino, we can see a nude lady as the focus of the painting. Also in the painting, we see a dog which is sleeping at her feet, and also some maids who are looking for something in a chest. In her hand she clutches roses, the symbol of Venus and of love. Her pet dog shows the symbol of faithfulness which could be related to the bond of marital love. In the window is a pot of myrtle which is a symbol of constancy.

Canvas and Oil paint were used to create the finished artwork. Titian applied pigment directly to the canvas to suggest form and movement. He used huge brushes, using broken brushstrokes over a layer of paint which already dried. His colors are sharp and strong with authentic use of light and shading, including his trademark of conveying light through color. The red tones of the matron’s skirt and the muted reds of the tapestries against the neutral whites of the matron’s sleeves and the kneeling girl’s gown echo the deep Venetian reds set off against the pale neutral whites of the linen and the warm ivory gold of the ï¬esh. Titian uses color as a way to organize his painting and achieve a more realistic composition. The canvas is split in half by the vertical line of the dark drape behind Venus. Titian’s use of chiaroscuro and the glazing softness in the outlines has created the real sense of her flesh and is essential to the painting.

In this artwork, the Venus rests on the gentle slope of her luxurious pillowed couch, the linear play of the draperies contrasting with her body’s sleek continuous volume. At her feet is a balancing ï¬gure which is her sleeping dog. Titian masterfully constructed the view backward into space and the division of the space into progressively smaller units.

At the time Titian painted this artwork which was the High Renaissance, there was a war going on in Italy,it was the end of the Italian war between Charles V and Francis 1 of France. The war lasted from 1536-1538. Titian painted this artwork as a piece of the Renaissance, it also demonstrates the era’s achievements and values in art.

Fortune Teller

Caravaggio, 1595

Oil on Canvas

In Caravaggio’s Fortune teller, we see a man dressed in style, and a woman holding his hand. In this painting, we see that the woman is a fortune teller, and she is holding the hand of the man, who is simply enamored with the woman and fails to notice that she is slipping his ring out of his finger. This painting shows the symbolic relationship between men and women.

For this painting, Caravaggio used Oil paint and Canvas. Visual movement is directed along implied lines of the clothing. The light values of the fortune tellers’ white blouse contrasts the dark cloth of her dress which created an implied diagonal line that our eye follow down to the subject of the painting. Also, the contrast of the light values in the man’s clothing highlights a vertical line that leads to his face. The diagonal line of their gaze also mimics the line of the shadow that is on the wall. Caravaggio used light and dark lighting effects called chiaroscuro in this painting. Also, the warm golden brown tones of the skin and the background mixed with soft light and accompanied by the exchange of whites, greens, reds and browns of the garments emphasize the balance to further soothe the audience.

The background is a real wall which is broken by the shadows of a half-drawn curtain and a window sash, and the figures entirely fill the space and define it in three dimensions. Caravaggio rendered textures through the use of light fixated on the crinkled cotton, leather gloves, metal of sword, and feathers.

This painting means that man can be fooled and enticed by beauty. This artwork was painted during the baroque era. It was called a genre painting which was not really popular in Rome at that time, but got major attention, and proved immensely influential over the next century.

The Nightwatch

Rembrandt, 1642

Oil on Canvas

This painting is a militia painting which shows a group portrait of a division of the civic guard. It depicts a group of Dutch residents, in various poses, as they allegedly head off to guard the city’s walls. The girl in the focus is carrying the main symbols. She is the mascot: the claws of the chicken on her belt represent the ‘Clauweniers’- Arquebusiers; the pistol behind the chicken stands for clover, she is also holding the militia’s goblet. The man in front of her is wearing a helmet with an oak leaf – a traditional motif of the Arquebusiers. Another subtle detail reveals these to be Amsterdam Arquebusiers: the three crosses of the Amsterdam coat of arms can be seen in the lapel of the lieutenant’s jacket.

The materials used were Oil paint and Canvas. Rembrandt created this painting by making the architecture in the foreground is more or less symmetrical. He also positioned a number of militiamen symmetrically. The captain and the lieutenant are standing just to the right of center.

This asymmetry brings tension to the picture: the eye draws both the men a little to the left, in the direction they are walking which enhances the feeling of movement. The lines of a number of pole arms are in between and they connect the center of the structure with the space outside the painting.

Rembrandt used mostly yellows and reds. He used chiaroscuro to heighten the sense of drama. This painting is balanced by shadows which define the pictures. The contrasts between light and shade in the painting enhance the feeling of action and movement. He also used light and shadows to create layers of dimension. Rembrandt used the fall of the light to focus attention on the most important figures which are the captain and the lieutenant. Also the brushstrokes are affected by the light, and not as well defined. The brightest thing in this painting is the child running a lot, and is balanced by the drummer boy who is much darker.

This painting was created in the baroque era which was a time of allegory and emblems, and it simply showed just how artistic the views were back in the baroque era.

Works Cited

Benedetti, Sergio, and Fionnuala Croke. Caravaggio, the Master Revealed. [Dublin]: National Gallery of Ireland, 1993. Print.

Châtelet, Albert. Van Eyck. Woodbury, NY: Barron’s, 1980. Print.

Goffen, Rona. Titian’s “Venus of Urbino” Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1997. Print.

Greenaway, Peter. Nightwatching: A View of Rembrandt’s The Night Watch. Rotterdam [The Netherlands: Veenman, 2006. Print.

Hall, Edwin. The Arnolfini Betrothal: Medieval Marriage and the Enigma of Van Eyck’s Double Portrait. Berkeley: University of California, 1994. Print.

Hinks, R. P. Michelangelo Merisi Da Caravaggio: His Life, His Legend, His Works. London: Faber and Faber, 1953. Print.

Kleinbub, Christian K. Vision and the Visionary in Raphael. University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State UP, 2011. Print.

Kleiner, Fred S., and Helen Gardner. Gardner’s Art through the Ages: A Global History. Boston, MA: Thomson/Wadsworth, 2009. Print.

Koot, Ton. Rembrandt’s Night Watch. A Fascinating Story. Amsterdam: Meulenhoff International, 1969. Print.

Nagel, Alexander. The Controversy of Renaissance Art. Chicago: University of Chicago, 2011. Print.

Osborne, June, and Joe Cornish. Urbino: The Story of a Renaissance City. Chicago: University of Chicago, 2003. Print.

Scallen, Catherine B. Art of the Northern Renaissance. Chantilly, VA: Teaching, 2007. Print.

Varriano, John L., and Michelangelo Merisi Da Caravaggio. Caravaggio: The Art of Realism. University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State UP, 2006. Print.

Venezia, Mike. Raphael. New York: Children’s, 2001. Print.

Wallace, Robert. The World of Rembrandt, 1606-1669. New York: Time-Life, 1968. 107-11. Print.

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Commentary on the Arnolfini Wedding by Jan Van Eyck, 1434. (2017, Dec 21). Retrieved from

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