Jan Van Eycks Arnolfini Portrait By Erwin Panofsky

Terms l l Council of Trent- (1545 -1563) The Council of Trent was a central feature of the Counter. Reformation, a response to and defense against the Protestant Reformation. The council issued condemnations on what it defined as Protestant heresies and defined Church teachings in the areas of Scripture and Tradition, Original Sin, Justification, Sacraments, the Eucharist in Holy Mass and the veneration of saints. It issued numerous reform decrees. By addressing Catholic dents, and the Biblical canon, the Council was confronting disputes Protestants had pointed out as their grievances with the Catholic Church. Humanism- Humanism is the term generally applied to the predominant social philosophy and intellectual and literary currents of the period from 1400 to 1650. It was a response to the challenge of medieval scholastic education, which emphasized practical, pre-professional and -scientific studies. While Scholasticism focused on preparing men to be doctors, lawyers or professional theologians, and was taught from approved textbooks in logic, natural philosophy, medicine, law and theology, Humanism sought to create a citizenry able to speak and write with eloquence and clarity. Thus, they would be capable of better engaging the civic life of their communities and persuading others to virtuous and prudent actions.

Terms l l l Louis Dimier- (1865 -1943) An art historian, critic, and political activist who wrote much on the history of French art as well as political critique

He was a contemporary of Panofsky. Fides- Latin for promise, assurance, word of honor, engagement among other things Transfigured reality- term used by Panofsky to describe when an environment or setting in a painting is given a different meeting by the use of iconography within the work

Problems with the Portrait l It is supposed to be a wedding ceremony because of the joining of hands. The portrait could be a pictorial marriage certificate where the artist is considered a witness because he signs his name l However, the woman is wearing a headdress of a woman already wed, if she were getting married in the portrait her hair would be down l There is only one single lit candle in the whole chandelier, not enough to provide light in the room l It is conjectured in the article that this is because the candle is representative of unity and love however the candle could also be representative that she is now dead and he still lives (the reason that the candle looms over his side l Problems identifying it due to mistranslation and misinterpretation of the words both on the portrait and in the treasury inventories

Tombs and Marriage l Another interesting facet of death in the supposed marriage portrait datemyage mentioned in the article is how similar the poses are to tomb statues and paintings. l The positions that they are standing in could be interpreted as a marriage ceremony but the fact that he is holding her right hand with his left is very strange, traditionally they would join their right hands together. Evidently this position has a closer similarity to tomb carvings rather than standard marriage portraits. l Panofsky does suggest that this might be for compositional purposes. The attitude of the painting is already very strange for the time so this does not seem entirely unlikely l Coupled with the odd candle in the chandelier, this makes for an interesting combination. Do you think that the combination suggests a portrait in memoriam of the wife? Or is it a simple marriage portrait? Or even more simply is the choice for simple compositional purposes?

Margaret triumphing over the dragon) showing the room as a nuptial chamber

Purpose of the Painting Panofsky asserts that the London Portrait acts as a “memorial portrait and document at the same time”. This assertion is largely based on Panofsky’s understanding of 15 th century marriage customs and his interpretation of the inscription, “Jan Van Eyck has been here 1434”. This is a very powerful statement, especially after centuries of confusion about the portrait. l Panofsky alleges this on the basis of law prior to the Council of Trent did not mandate a witness to be present at marriage ceremonies. This made it difficult to prove the validity of ones marriage if one of the participants wanted to contest the fact. According to Panofsky the portrait would have acted as documentation of the ceremony and the artist’s signature on the back wall acts as a testament of the artist being the witness.

Purpose Cont. l l From the body language of the figures with the clasping of hands (per fides manualem) and the raising of the hand to take an oath (fides levata), Panofsky interprets the figures being in the act of matrimony. This is further evidenced in the subtle symbolism through out the room (the candle and the image of St. Evoking both symbolism pertaining to marriage in the 15 th century and signing the work as “witness” Jan Van Eyck creates a legal document as well as work of art are the premises on which Panofsky bases his claim. Is this effective?

Iconography l There is a single burning candle, perhaps referencing a marriage tradition that started in Greek tradition l In light of the bed in the room and some of the decoration, it can be assumed that this is taking place in a nuptial chamber l The dog represents marital fidelity l Carved into the chair is St. Margaret slaying the dragon (often provoked by pregnant women

Iconography Appraisal l The portrait is almost completely unique for it’s time, the subtlety of the image is almost miraculous l It is held as a pinnacle of genre painting but is actually rich with symbolism l Because of the arrangement of the symbols and the sober attitude of the scene, one is predisposed to suspecting symbolism in EVERY object since no single object is given any sort of dominance or importance. l What do you make of the use of symbolism by Jan Van Eyck? How does it compare to his contemporaries?

l How is the incorporation of images into the life of an everyday 15 th century flemish citizen different from the incorporation of images in our lives today? How is it the same?