The Subject in Art: Portraiture and the Birth of the Modern (e-Duke books scholarly collection.)

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The furs may be the especially expensive sable for him and ermine or miniver for her. He wears a hat of plaited straw dyed black, as often worn in the summer at the time. His tabard was more purple than it appears now as the pigments have faded over time and may be intended to be silk velvet another very expensive item. Underneath he wears a doublet of patterned material, probably silk damask.

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Her dress has elaborate dagging cloth folded and sewn together, then cut and frayed decoratively on the sleeves, and a long train. Her blue underdress is also trimmed with white fur. Although the woman's plain gold necklace and the rings that both wear are the only jewellery visible, both outfits would have been enormously expensive, and appreciated as such by a contemporary viewer. There may be an element of restraint in their clothes especially the man befitting their merchant status — portraits of aristocrats tend to show gold chains and more decorated cloth, [8] although "the restrained colours of the man's clothing correspond to those favoured by Duke Phillip of Burgundy".

The interior of the room has other signs of wealth; the brass chandelier is large and elaborate by contemporary standards, and would have been very expensive.

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It would probably have had a mechanism with pulley and chains above, to lower it for managing the candles possibly omitted from the painting for lack of room. The convex mirror at the back, in a wooden frame with scenes of The Passion painted behind glass, is shown larger than such mirrors could actually be made at this date — another discreet departure from realism by van Eyck.

There is also no sign of a fireplace including in the mirror , nor anywhere obvious to put one. Even the oranges casually placed to the left are a sign of wealth; they were very expensive in Burgundy, and may have been one of the items dealt in by Arnolfini. Further signs of luxury are the elaborate bed-hangings and the carvings on the chair and bench against the back wall to the right, partly hidden by the bed , also the small Oriental carpet on the floor by the bed; many owners of such expensive objects placed them on tables, as they still do in the Netherlands.

The view in the mirror shows two figures just inside the door that the couple are facing.

Diego Velázquez

Scholars have made this assumption based on the appearance of figures wearing red head-dresses in some other van Eyck works e. The dog is an early form of the breed now known as the Brussels griffon. The painting is signed, inscribed and dated on the wall above the mirror: " Johannes de eyck fuit hic " "Jan van Eyck was here ". The inscription looks as if it were painted in large letters on the wall, as was done with proverbs and other phrases at this period.

Other surviving van Eyck signatures are painted in trompe l'oeil on the wooden frame of his paintings, so that they appear to have been carved in the wood. In their book published in , Crowe and Cavalcaselle were the first to link the double portrait with the early 16th century inventories of Margaret of Austria.

They suggested that the painting showed portraits of Giovanni [di Arrigo] Arnolfini and his wife. It is now believed that the subject is either Giovanni di Arrigo or his cousin, Giovanni di Nicolao Arnolfini, and a wife of either one of them. This is either an undocumented first wife of Giovanni di Arrigo or a second wife of Giovanni di Nicolao, or, according to a recent proposal, Giovanni di Nicolao's first wife Costanza Trenta, who had died perhaps in childbirth by February Details such as the snuffed candle above the woman, the scenes after Christ's death on her side of the background roundel, and the black garb of the man, support this view. In Erwin Panofsky published an article entitled Jan van Eyck's 'Arnolfini' Portrait in the Burlington Magazine , arguing that the elaborate signature on the back wall, and other factors, showed that it was painted as a legal record of the occasion of the marriage of the couple, complete with witnesses and a witness signature. Since then, there has been considerable scholarly argument among art historians on the occasion represented. Edwin Hall considers that the painting depicts a betrothal , not a marriage. Margaret D. Carroll argues that the painting is a portrait of a married couple that alludes also to the husband's grant of legal authority to his wife.

She argues that the painting depicts a couple, already married, now formalizing a subsequent legal arrangement, a mandate, by which the husband "hands over" to his wife the legal authority to conduct business on her own or his behalf similar to a power of attorney. The claim is not that the painting had any legal force, but that van Eyck played upon the imagery of legal contract as a pictorial conceit. While the two figures in the mirror could be thought of as witnesses to the oath-taking, the artist himself provides witty authentication with his notarial signature on the wall.

Jan Baptist Bedaux agrees somewhat with Panofsky that this is a marriage contract portrait in his article "The reality of symbols: the question of disguised symbolism in Jan van Eyck's Arnolfini Portrait. Bedaux argues, "if the symbols are disguised to such an extent that they do not clash with reality as conceived at the time Craig Harbison takes the middle ground between Panofsky and Bedaux in their debate about "disguised symbolism" and realism.

Harbison argues that "Jan van Eyck is there as storyteller Harbison urges the notion that one needs to conduct a multivalent reading of the painting that includes references to the secular and sexual context of the Burgundian court, as well as religious and sacramental references to marriage.

Lorne Campbell in the National Gallery Catalogue sees no need to find a special meaning in the painting: " Only the unnecessary lighted candle and the strange signature provoke speculation. Margaret Koster's new suggestion, discussed above and below, that the portrait is a memorial one, of a wife already dead for a year or so, would displace these theories. Art historian Maximiliaan Martens has suggested that the painting was meant as a gift for the Arnolfini family in Italy. It had the purpose of showing the prosperity and wealth of the couple depicted. He feels this might explain oddities in the painting, for example why the couple are standing in typical winter clothing while a cherry tree is in fruit outside, and why the phrase " Johannes de eyck fuit hic " is featured so large in the centre of the painting.

Herman Colenbrander has proposed that the painting may depict an old German custom of a husband promising a gift to his bride on the morning after their wedding night. He has also suggested that the painting may have been a present from the artist to his friend. In , French physician Jean-Philippe Postel, in his book L'Affaire Arnolfini , agreed with Koster that the woman is dead, but he suggested that she is appearing to the man as a spectre, asking him to pray for her soul.

It is thought that the couple are already married because of the woman's headdress. A non-married woman would have her hair down, according to Margaret Carroll. Arnolfini looks directly out at the viewer; his wife gazes obediently at her husband.

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His hand is vertically raised, representing his commanding position of authority, whilst she has her hand in a lower, horizontal, more submissive pose. However, her gaze at her husband can also show her equality to him because she is not looking down at the floor as lower class women would. Then, instead of talking to several of them at once, he may select one person for a confidence, leading him to one side, or even taking him into an adjoining room, as a mark of favor. Most of his life, he has worked at night, to assure himself of no human interruption at all, and this has led to his habit of rising late in the morning.

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Picasso is a heavy cigarette smoker who does not inhale. He eats simply and without fine taste, possesses incomparably preserved good health, has always been a hypochondriac who once had a bit of liver trouble and an attack of sciatica , is still proud of his small hands and feet, hates old age, and has a horror of death. He is always reported as shutting off his past behind him—as having no nostalgias, and living, with almost cruel determination, only in the perpetual present, on which he has seemed to construct his life.

Yet the old friends from his youth who are still alive are, in a literal manner, daily in his thoughts. To an English friend of the younger generation he lately confided that he has the habit of repeating to himself the names of these old friends every morning. When Maurice Raynal—the noted art critic, who was for some time a member of the Montmartre group during the impoverished euphoric Bateau-Lavoir days—died recently, Picasso felt great remorse, he told his English friend.

Raynal had died on the very day Picasso forgot to mention his name in the morning. Picasso is ranked as the wittiest artist and best conversationalist since Whistler, if very different. He has become famous for his talk and what could be called his carnivorous wit, since it usually eats other people alive. He does not converse but talks solo—creatively, decisively, and fascinatingly, with wit, ideas, and odd images, his ever-present Spanish accent seasoning his phrases, which emerge in bursts. The only attention he pays to anything that may be said in comment or reply is to change it so much, on dealing with it, as to make it unrecognizable to whoever has just said it; moreover, Picasso then holds the speaker responsible for what he has not said.

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  5. When he has nothing to say, his silence is so profound, moody, Iberian, and oppressive that nobody else has anything to say, either. His humor is sardonic, frequently cruel, always deft, never clumsy or brutal, and is usually composed of over-sharpened truth, penetrating and painful when it strikes. He rarely misses. The oldest, most quoted of his sayings was a characterization of the late Cubist painter Marcoussis, whom Picasso accused of copying his paintings as a way of picking his brains. Some of his humorous exploits have had unexpectedly factual results.

    The joke was so convincing that one of the most serious of the Paris art magazines, on getting hold of a photograph of the telephoning odalisque, solemnly reproduced it as a genuine Matisse. During the nineteen-thirties, when the fabrication of counterfeit Picassos was at its height—his works being the must often falsified because he rated the highest prices—an old journalist friend took a small Picasso belonging to some poor devil of an artist to Picasso for authentication, so the impoverished artist could sell it.

    The friend brought him another little Picasso, from a different source, and then a third. He then bought the first Picasso at quadruple the price that the poor artist had hoped it might fetch. When another person brought him a counterfeit etching to sign, he signed it so many times that the man was able to sell it only as a curiosity to an autograph dealer. There is something so mordant about his humor and about what amuses him that certain macabre types of funny story that go the rounds in Paris are often introduced as having been told by the artist himself.

    In the latest Picasso-type story, credited to him by the weekly Paris-Match , a cannibal mother and little cannibal child are walking in the forest when an airplane flies overhead. A handshake from your entirely devoted friend and admirer, Picasso. Receive, fresh as a lettuce, the ancient amity of your old friend. Most of the other great Paris painters, when interviewed, have tended to be either technical or uplifting, and have often made sincerely lofty pronouncements. Art is a lie that makes us realize truth—at least the truth that is given us to understand.

    I would like to know if anyone has ever seen a natural work of art. Nature and art, being two different things, cannot be the same thing. Through art we express our conception of what nature is not.