Learn how and when to remove this template message Panofsky was born in Hannover to a wealthy Jewish Silesian mining family. He grew up in Berlin, receiving his Abitur in at the Joachimsthalsches Gymnasium. In —14 he studied law, philosophy, philology, and art history in Freiburg, Munich, and Berlin, where he heard lectures by the art historian Margarete Bieber , who was filling in for Georg Loeschcke. Because of a horse-riding accident, Panofsky was exempted from military service during World War I, using the time to attend the seminars of the medievalist Adolph Goldschmidt in Berlin. It was during this period that his first major writings on art history began to appear. Although initially allowed to spend alternate terms in Hamburg and New York City , after the Nazis came to power in Germany his appointment in Hamburg was terminated because he was Jewish, and he remained permanently in the United States with his art historian wife since , Dorothea "Dora" Mosse —
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Detail showing the male subject, probably Giovanni di Nicolao Arnolfini The painting is generally in very good condition, though with small losses of original paint and damages, which have mostly been retouched. Infrared reflectograms of the painting show many small alterations, or pentimenti , in the underdrawing : to both faces, to the mirror, and to other elements.
The room probably functioned as a reception room, as it was the fashion in France and Burgundy where beds in reception rooms were used as seating, except, for example, when a mother with a new baby received visitors. The window has six interior wooden shutters, but only the top opening has glass, with clear bulls-eye pieces set in blue, red and green stained glass.
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.
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. 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.
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 inscription looks as if it were painted in large letters on the wall, as was done with proverbs and other phrases at this period.
They suggested that the painting showed portraits of Giovanni [di Arrigo] Arnolfini and his wife. The rear wall seems to refer to the Arnolfini Portrait of forty years earlier, containing many of the same objects like the convex mirror and in particular the painted inscription on the wall. Edwin Hall considers that the painting depicts a betrothal , not a marriage. Margaret D. 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.
Bedaux argues, "if the symbols are disguised to such an extent that they do not clash with reality as conceived at the time 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. 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. 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. 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.
They are part of the Burgundian court life and in that system she is his equal, not his subordinate. Is it a marriage contract or something else? Panofsky interprets the gesture as an act of fides, Latin for "marital oath".
He calls the representation of the couple "qui desponsari videbantur per fidem" which means, "who were contracting their marriage by marital oath". Some scholars like Jan Baptist Bedaux and Peter Schabacker argue that if this painting does show a marriage ceremony, then the use of the left hand points to the marriage being morganatic and not clandestine.
A marriage is said to be morganatic if a man marries a woman of unequal rank. The more cloth a person wore, the more wealthy he or she was assumed to be. Another indication that the woman is not pregnant is that Giovanna Cenami the identification of the woman according to most earlier scholars died childless,  as did Costanza Trenta a possible identification according to recent archival evidence ;  whether a hypothetical unsuccessful pregnancy would have been left recorded in a portrait is questionable, although if it is indeed Constanza Trenta, as Koster proposed, and she died in childbirth, then the oblique reference to pregnancy gains strength.
Moreover, the beauty ideal embodied in contemporary female portraits and clothing rest in the first place on the high valuation on the ability of women to bear children. Harbison maintains her gesture is merely an indication of the extreme desire of the couple shown for fertility and progeny. Furthermore, the brush and the rock crystal prayer-beads a popular engagement present from the future bridegroom appearing together on either side of the mirror may also allude to the dual Christian injunctions ora et labora pray and work.
According to Jan Baptist Bedaux, the broom could also symbolize proverbial chastity; it "sweeps out impurities". The mirror itself may represent the eye of God observing the vows of the wedding. According to one author "The painting is often referenced for its immaculate depiction of non-Euclidean geometry ",  referring to the image on the convex mirror. Assuming a spherical mirror , the distortion has been correctly portrayed, except for the leftmost part of the window frame, the near edge of the table and the hem of the dress.
Many wealthy women in the court had lap dogs as companions. So, the dog could reflect the wealth of the couple and their position in courtly life. Behind the pair, the curtains of the marriage bed have been opened; the red curtains might allude to the physical act of love between the married couple. The single candle in the left-front holder of the ornate six-branched chandelier is possibly the candle used in traditional Flemish marriage customs.
The oranges which lie on the window sill and chest may symbolize the purity and innocence that reigned in the Garden of Eden before the Fall of Man. It could be a sign of fertility as well. At some point before it came into the possession of Don Diego de Guevara d. Brussels , a Spanish career courtier of the Habsburgs himself the subject of a fine portrait by Michael Sittow in the National Gallery of Art. He lived most of his life in the Netherlands, and may have known the Arnolfinis in their later years.
The item says in French : "a large picture which is called Hernoul le Fin with his wife in a chamber, which was given to Madame by Don Diego, whose arms are on the cover of the said picture; done by the painter Johannes.
It is clearly described in an inventory taken after her death in , when it was inherited by Philip II of Spain. A painting of two of his young daughters, "Infantas Isabella Clara Eugenia and Catalina Micaela of Spain" Prado , commissioned by Philip clearly copies the pose of the figures. In a German visitor saw it in the Alcazar Palace in Madrid. Now it had verses from Ovid painted on the frame: "See that you promise: what harm is there in promises? In promises anyone can be rich.
The Alcazar was rebuilt in the eighteenth century as the Royal Palace of Madrid , but the painting remained in the royal collection, and by had been moved to the "Palacio Nuevo". He claimed that after he was seriously wounded at the Battle of Waterloo the previous year, the painting hung in the room where he convalesced in Brussels.
He fell in love with it, and persuaded the owner to sell. The Prince had it on approval for two years at Carlton House before eventually returning it in Around , Hay gave it to a friend to look after, not seeing it or the friend for the next thirteen years, until he arranged for it to be included in a public exhibition in By then the shutters had gone, along with the original frame.
Artibus et Historiae, Vol. The Art Bulletin, Vol. Critical Inquiry, Vol. Renaissance Quarterly, Vol. National Gallery Publications,
Hannah Gadsby: why I love the Arnolfini Portrait, one of art history’s greatest riddles
Monday, October 10, Margaret Koster vs. Panofsky According to Margaret Koster, the Arnolfini portrait is that of a memorial depiction. She has gathered much evidence in support of this theory, and uses the traditions of the times as another back-brace to her arguements. She argues that Arnolfini is depicted making a hand gesture that would suggest more than the mere taking of a marriage oath, but instead it is reference to a oath already taken and recaptured. Koster goes on to point out certain symbols that would support her post-death conclusion.
Ritratto dei coniugi Arnolfini
Detail showing the male subject, probably Giovanni di Nicolao Arnolfini The painting is generally in very good condition, though with small losses of original paint and damages, which have mostly been retouched. Infrared reflectograms of the painting show many small alterations, or pentimenti , in the underdrawing : to both faces, to the mirror, and to other elements. The room probably functioned as a reception room, as it was the fashion in France and Burgundy where beds in reception rooms were used as seating, except, for example, when a mother with a new baby received visitors. The window has six interior wooden shutters, but only the top opening has glass, with clear bulls-eye pieces set in blue, red and green stained glass. The furs may be the especially expensive sable for him and ermine or miniver for her.