Tag Archives: art History

#FineArtFriday: The Arnolfini Portrait by Jan van Eyck 1434

Artist: Jan van Eyck  (circa 1390 –1441)

Title: The Arnolfini Portrait

Genre: portrait

Date: 1434

Medium: oil on panel

Dimensions: Height: 82 cm (32.2 in); Width: 59.5 cm (23.4 in)

Collection: National Gallery

About this painting, via Wikipedia:

The Arnolfini Portrait (or The Arnolfini WeddingThe Arnolfini Marriage, the Portrait of Giovanni Arnolfini and his Wife, or other titles) is a 1434 oil painting on oak panel by the Early Netherlandish painter Jan van Eyck. It forms a full-length double portrait, believed to depict the Italian merchant Giovanni di Nicolao Arnolfini and his wife, presumably in their residence at the Flemish city of Bruges.

What I love about this painting:

The painting is signed, inscribed, and dated on the wall above the mirror: “Johannes de eyck fuit hic 1434” (Jan van Eyck was here 1434).  This signature, made to look as if it were an inscription explaining the mirror over which it is centered, is a shining example of the sharp wit the later Netherlandish painters frequently inserted into their pictures.

I suspect his inclusion of subtle humor in his works gave permission to those painters who followed in his footsteps, such as the great Bruegel dynasty.

The colors of the garments are deep and rich. These were expensive clothes, completely befitting a wealthy merchant and his wife. In regard to the controversy which is explained below – yes, this painting is steeped in allegory and symbolism, down to the clogs in the left hand corner placed as if they are going out of the picture. In some cultures, a pair of shoes placed like that symbolizes an imminent departure, usually death.

All van Eyck’s work was heavily symbolic. But she appears to be in the late stages of a pregnancy. To me, given the societal norms of the Netherlands in the year 1434, this means the picture shows a married couple. If they were not actually married, it seems unlikely they would have commissioned a portrait showing her in that condition. In fact, and this will probably expose my self-taught ignorance of art history, it makes me wonder why there is a controversy about their marital status at all.

And the mirror…oh my. That mirror is brilliant.

The Controversy, via Wikipedia:

In 1934 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. Panofsky also argues that the many details of domestic items in the painting each have a disguised symbolism attached to their appearance. While Panofsky’s claim that the painting formed a kind of certificate of marriage is not accepted by all art historians, his analysis of the symbolic function of the details is broadly agreed, and has been applied to many other Early Netherlandish paintings, especially a number of depictions of the Annunciation set in richly detailed interiors, a tradition for which the Arnolfini Portrait and the Mérode Altarpiece by Robert Campin represent the start (in terms of surviving works at least).

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. Carroll also proposes that the portrait was meant to affirm Giovanni Arnolfini’s good character as a merchant and aspiring member of the Burgundian court. 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.


Credits and Attributions:

Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:Van Eyck – Arnolfini Portrait.jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Van_Eyck_-_Arnolfini_Portrait.jpg&oldid=446521642 (accessed September 4, 2020).

Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:The Arnolfini Portrait, détail (2).jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:The_Arnolfini_Portrait,_d%C3%A9tail_(2).jpg&oldid=428220496 (accessed September 4, 2020).

Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:Arnolfini Portrait 3.jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Arnolfini_Portrait_3.jpg&oldid=428554231 (accessed September 4, 2020).

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#FineArtFriday: Salvator Mundi, by Leonardo Da Vinci

  • Artist: Leonardo da Vinci  (1452–1519)
  • Title: Salvator Mundi
  • Genre  religious art
  • Description: Photographic reproduction of the painting after restoration by Dianne Dwyer Modestini, a research professor at New York University.
  • Depicted people: Jesus Christ
  • Date: circa 1500
  • Medium: oil on walnut wood
  • Dimensions: Height: 65.6 cm (25.8″); Width: 45.4 cm (17.8″)
  • Collection: Ostensibly the Louvre Abu Dhabi
  • Object history: 1958: auctioned 2007: restored
  • November 2017: acquired by Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority
  • 15 November 2017: auctioned

Leonardo da Vinci was one of history’s greatest artists and thinkers. Only about 15 of his paintings are known to exist and one, the “Salvator Mundi” (Savior of the World), was thought to be lost forever. Leonard painted it sometime around the year 1500.

About this image, via Wikipedia”

Salvator Mundi is one of Leonardo’s most copied paintings, with about 12 known examples executed by his pupils and others. Leonardo’s version was thought to have been lost after the mid-17th century. In 1978, Joanne Snow-Smith developed a compelling case that the supposed copy located in the Marquis Jean-Louis de Ganay Collection, Paris, was the lost original based on its similarity to Saint John the Baptist. Many art historians were convinced, as she was able to establish a direct historical connection between Leonardo da Vinci, the engraving by Wenceslaus Hollar and the painting in the Ganay collection.[30]

In 2005, a Salvator Mundi was presented and acquired at an auction for less than $10,000 (€8,450) by a consortium of art dealers that included Alexander Parrish and Robert Simon, a specialist in Old Masters. It was sold from the estate of Baton Rouge businessman Basil Clovis Hendry Sr., at the St. Charles Gallery auction house in New Orleans. It had been heavily over-painted so it looked like a copy, and was, before restoration, described as “a wreck, dark and gloomy”. 

The consortium believed there was a possibility that the low-quality mess (with its excessive overpainting) might actually be the long-missing da Vinci original. They commissioned Dianne Dwyer Modestini at New York University to oversee the restoration. She began by removing the overpainting with acetone, leading her to discover that at some point, a stepped area of unevenness near Christ’s face had been shaved down with a sharp object, and also leveled with a mixture of gesso, paint and glue. Using infrared photographs Simon had taken of the painting, Modestini discovered a pentimento (earlier draft) of the painting which had the blessing hand’s thumb in a straight, rather than curved, position. The discovery that Christ had two thumbs on his right hand was crucial. This pentimento (literally ‘repent’) showed the artist had a second thought about the positioning of the thumb. Such a second thought is considered evidence that this is not a copy but indeed an original, since copiers would have no doubts about composition. 

Modestini proceeded to have panel specialist Monica Griesbach chisel off a marouflaged wood panel which had been tunnelled through by worms, causing the painting to break into seven pieces. Griesbach reassembled the painting with adhesive and wood slivers.  In late 2006, Modestini began her restoration effort.

The work was subsequently authenticated as a painting by Leonardo. From November 2011 through February 2012, the painting was exhibited at the National Gallery as a work by Leonardo da Vinci, after authentication by that facility. In 2012, it was also authenticated by the Dallas Museum of Art. 

More about this painting:

In 2005 restoration by the eminent conservator, Dianne Dwyer Modestini. She commented in a video interview for the Robb Report, “This picture is a paradigm of everything that he (Da Vinci) knew technically about painting and much of what he thought about time, eternity, and the cosmos. It wasn’t just a portrait of Jesus Christ painted for the king. This was something that became very important to him.” READ MORE: http://bit.ly/LostDaVinci


Credits and Attributions:

Salvator Mundi, by Leonardo da Vinci / Public domain Circa 1490-1519, oil on panel, 45.4 cm × 65.6 cm (25.8 in × 17.9 in), private collection. (Photo by VCG Wilson/Corbis via Getty Images)

Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:Leonardo da Vinci, Salvator Mundi, c.1500, oil on walnut, 45.4 × 65.6 cm.jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Leonardo_da_Vinci,_Salvator_Mundi,_c.1500,_oil_on_walnut,_45.4_%C3%97_65.6_cm.jpg&oldid=403092006 (accessed March 19, 2020).

Wikipedia contributors, “Salvator Mundi (Leonardo),” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Salvator_Mundi_(Leonardo)&oldid=946001422 (accessed March 19, 2020).

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#FineArtFriday: Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee by Rembrandt van Rijn, 1633

Today’s image is of a picture that was stolen in 1990 and has never been recovered.

Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee was painted during one of the happiest years of Rembrandt van Rijn’s turbulent life and depicts the miracle of Jesus calming the storm on the Sea of Galilee. A devout Christian, Rembrandt painted it from the description of the event as reported by the Apostle Mark, in the fourth chapter of his Gospel. As far as is known, it is the only seascape Rembrandt ever painted.

Constantijn Huygens, the father of Dutch mathematician and physicist Christiaan Huygens, had seen Rembrandt’s talent and helped him gain important commissions from the Court of The Hague. Many of his best religious paintings date from the years during which he had the favor of both Huygens and Prince Frederick Hendrick.

At the end of 1631, Rembrandt had moved to Amsterdam. The city was becoming the new business capital of the Netherlands, so there was great opportunity there for artists. In Amsterdam, Rembrandt had begun to paint portraits for the first time, and by 1633, his work was in high demand. His religious paintings and history paintings were also receiving the highest praise.

At first, he lived with an art dealer, Hendrick van Uylenburgh, which was where he met Hendrick’s cousin, Saskia van Uylenburgh. During 1633, the year in which Christ on the Sea of Galilee was painted, he was courting Saskia, hoping to marry her. He was earning a good income as a portraitist, and a bright future loomed. He must have felt in many ways as if he had the world by the tail.

What I love about this painting:

Rembrandt’s colors are vivid, standing out against the darkness of the storm. An entire story is captured in this image. The sea is terrifying, monstrous waves battering the ship, men panicking, trying to gain control. The terror of the event is clearly shown, and you feel fear for the men too. In the midst of chaos, Jesus awakes, calm despite the panic around him. Each face has a different expression, and one, a man holding a rope in one hand and pressing his cap to his head with the other, looks directly at us—Rembrandt himself.

The Gospel of Mark records the incident:

He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?

Rembrandt, a frail man but a devout believer, lived the story as he painted it, as do all good storytellers.

About the theft, via Wikipedia:

On March 18, 1990, 13 works of art valued at a combined total of $500 million were stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. In the early hours, guards admitted two men posing as police officers responding to a disturbance call. Once inside, the thieves tied up the guards and over the next hour committed the largest-value recorded theft of private property in history. Despite efforts by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and multiple probes around the world, no arrests have been made, and no works have been recovered.

The stolen works had originally been purchased by art collector Isabella Stewart Gardner (1840–1924) and intended to be left on permanent display at the museum with the rest of her collection. Since the collection and its layout are permanent, empty frames remain hanging both in homage to the missing works and as placeholders for their potential return. Experts are puzzled by the choice of paintings that were stolen, especially since more valuable artwork was left untouched. Among the stolen works was The Concert, one of only 34 known works by Vermeer and thought to be the most valuable unrecovered painting, valued at over $200 million.[when?] Also missing is The Storm on the Sea of GalileeRembrandt‘s only known seascape. Other works by Rembrandt, DegasManet, and Flinck were also stolen.

Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee by Rembrandt van Rijn

  • Artist:   Rembrandt  (1606–1669)
  • Genre: religious art
  • Date: 1633
  • Medium: oil on canvas
  • Dimensions: Height: 160 cm (62.9 ″); Width: 128 cm (50.3 ″)
  • Current Location: Unknown

Sources and Attributions:

Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:Rembrandt Christ in the Storm on the Lake of Galilee.jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Rembrandt_Christ_in_the_Storm_on_the_Lake_of_Galilee.jpg&oldid=341966464 (accessed April 4, 2019).

Wikipedia contributors, “Calming the storm,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Calming_the_storm&oldid=882782126 (accessed April 4, 2019).

The Isobel Stewart Gardner Museum, CHRIST IN THE STORM ON THE SEA OF GALILEE, 1633, https://www.gardnermuseum.org/experience/collection/10953 (accessed April 4, 2019).

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