A couple dressed in an aristocratic and luxurious way in a narrow bourgeois room, in which there are flip-flops and clogs scattered on the floor.
1434 the painting is made in Bruges, the most important commercial enclave in northern Europe.
From Russia and Scandinavia comes wood and skins.
From Genoa and Venice, silk, carpets and spices.
From Spain and Portugal lemons, figs and oranges.
Bruges is a rich urban nucleus, the most famous city in the world for the merchandise with which it trades and for the merchants who live there.
This is how Felipe the Good, Duke of Burgundy from 1419 to 1467, describes it.
It is the port city of its own kingdom.
Burgundy stretches from the North Sea to the Swiss border and has been the most powerful country in Europe for centuries.
The marriage in Van Eyck’s painting is an example of the wealth of Bruges.
The clothes show that it is a wealthy couple.
The woman’s dress is adorned with ermine and the careful placement of the pleats involves the help of a servant.
On the other hand, for the lady to be able to walk, someone has to hold her tail.
The man wears a valuable velvet cape lined with otter or sable.
This man is not part of the aristocracy because of the wooden clogs placed in front of him that are reinforced to be able to walk on the street.
The great gentlemen do not need clogs, they go on horseback or are carried in a sedan chair.
Van Eyck does not record the name of the person being portrayed.
It first appears in an ínventory 100 years after it was painted.
A large table with Hernoult le Fin with his wife in a room.
Hernoult le Fin is the French version of the Italian surname Arnolfini that belongs to a family of merchants and bankers from Lucca, which at that time had a delegation in Bruges.
The groom’s hands are as white and cared for as those of the bride of great youth.
His narrow shoulders indicate that he has no need to use physical force as a way of life.
His face shows cold and calculating cunning, it is possible that his French name, Harnault le Finn, the fine, the cunning reflects his personality.
Italians at this time have a monopoly on European banks.
Your country is the greatest economic power of the moment because they have developed the technique of the banking business, exchange, letters of credit and double accounting.
In Bruges the Italian bankers of the city met at the home of Van del Burse (Bosa in Flemish) whose name becomes what designates the most important institution of capitalism, the stock exchange.
Above the couple hangs a metal chandelier that the smiths then made in Flanders.
Only one candle in the candlestick is lit and there is no known reason for the fact.
There is a symbolic tradition, since in the Middle Ages a candle is carried on the head of the wedding processions or the groom gives it to the bride.
The flame symbolizes the all-seeing Christ who here is witness to the wedding promises.
Under the right arm of the spider, a wooden figure can be seen that forms part of the back of a chair.
It represents Saint Margaret defeating the dragon.
The chair is next to the wedding bed.
Like the candle and the carved figure on the chair, most of the objects in the painting have symbolic meaning.
At that time there is a secret language of everyday objects.
Many of the objects that appear, are not by chance, they belong to a language that we do not know.
The dog between the spouses indicates well-being and happiness.
In the tombs of the time, a lion appears at the feet of the man, a symbol of strength and courage, and at the feet of the woman a dog, which implies fidelity.
The mirror and the rosary that hangs on the wall alludes to the purity of the woman.
The symbolic language arises in medieval churches, people cannot read and need images for prayer and to learn.
Van Eyck also paints altarpieces despite living in a century in which profane art began to relegate religious art.
The Arnolfini painting represents the transitional stage.
The language of sacred art images is used to represent the bourgeois interior in which an action takes place that does not include the presence of Christ, but about a banker and his wife.
In Van Eyck’s paintings, not only the passage from sacred to profane art is detected, but also from aristocratic to bourgeois.
The painter’s signature is not on the right as usual but stands out between the mirror and the chandelier.
It does not put Johann de Eyck fecit (he did), but fuit hic (he was there, he was present).
This formula turns the table into a document.
The painter signs not as the author of the painting but as a witness to the wedding.