Arnolfini Essay Research Paper Jan van Eycks

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Arnolfini Essay, Research Paper Jan van Eyck?s ?Arnolfini? Portrait An essay written by a renowned art historian, Erwin Panofsky, discusses the controversy over a famous painting. The disputation was over the identification of the two people portrayed in the painting. The painting was a portrait thought to be Giovanni Arnofili and his wife, and the artist was Jan van Eyck. Panofsky wrote this essay to prove that this painting found in 1815, which he refers to as the ?London portrait?, is identical to a picture which was once acquired by Queen Mary of Hungary, among others. The ?Hapsburg painting?, referring to the one owned by the Queen, was lost in 1789. In my essay, I will show the proof given by Panofsky that the two pictures are, in fact, the same. By tracing the

provenance of the paintings, Panofsky validates his theory that the two may very well be just one. The theory that the two paintings are but one has been named the ?Orthodox Theory?. Since the Hapsburg painting was lost in 1789 and the London portrait wasn?t discovered until 1815, it is more than possible that the two paintings are the same. The gap in time between the loss of one and discovery of the other painting is thought by Panofsky due to someone running off with the painting during the Napoleon war. Panofsky?s essay holds much evidence to support the Orthodox Theory. For instance, the precise inventories of the Hapsburg painting describe a man and a woman standing in a room, joining hands with a mirror reflecting them from behind. That description is identical to the

London painting. Also, both paintings were dated 1434. Still, there are some controversies to explore despite the obvious descriptions of the paintings. First, there was an inscription on the London painting that read ?Johannes de Eyck fuit hic?. If this was translated in Latin, it would read with grammatical errors, ?Johannes van Eyck was here?. Since there were some doubts about that translation, it was taken by some to mean ?This is Johannes van Eyck?. This interpretation made the people in the London painting Johannes and his wife, not Arnolfini. This was a serious doubt to the Orthodox theory. Another reason disagreement took place over the painting was because of a man who wrote a biography of van Eyck, Carl Vermander. Vermander described the Hapsburg painting as ?a man and

a woman taking each other by the right hand…and they were married by Fides who joined them to each other?. This description would make Fides a human being, and there is no third person in the London painting. Panofsky, being a commendable art historian, questioned Vermander?s reliability. Panofsky openly stated that any source from Vermander was untrustworthy, mainly because an inventory as descriptive as the one of Queen Mary?s paintings would not possibly leave out a full sized figure as he mentioned. Also, by researching Vermander?s information, he found that his source was Marcus van Vaernewyck, a man who himself had never even seen the painting, nor ever spoke of it before in any of his other writings. The description of the Hapsburg painting given by Vermander was almost

exact to that of Vaernewyck?s except for a slight change which made it obvious that Vermander had altered it adding his own words of a painting he?d never seen. This should make it clear that it is extremely important to make sure your sources are credible, and also that translations or restating of quotes can be incorrectly amplified and should always be checked. After proving Vermander wrong, and giving himself incredible credibility, Panofsky makes another point about the Catholic background. In the Catholic dogma, before the Council of Trent, it was unnecessary to have a priest or a witness at a wedding ceremony in order for it to be valid. All that was needed was the mutual consent by words and actions. I believe Panofsky brought up this point to again prove there was not a