Monday, October 19, 2009

Giovanni Arnolfini and Van Eyck

Most people are familiar with Giovanni Arnolfini because of his infamous family portrait by Jan van Eyck (1434). But did you know that Jan van Eyck made another portrait of Giovanni Arnolfini? This portrait, shown above, dates c. 1435.

I've never thought that Giovanni Arnolfini was very attractive, and seeing this portrait has further solidified my opinion. But who knows? Maybe he had a great personality, right?

What really caught my attention, however, is that there is a striking similarity between this portrait and Jan van Eyck's self-portrait, (commonly called Man in a Red Turban, 1433, see below):

Notice the red turbans (which, technically, should be called chaperons) in each painting? I realize that this headgear was popular in the mid-fifteenth century (you can see more examples here), so I guess it shouldn't be surprising that both men are portrayed this way. But there are other similarities between the portraits too, like the dark fur-lined coat and three-quarter profile view. Perhaps it isn't coincidental that these portraits are only about two years apart. I wonder if Giovanni saw van Eyck's self-portrait and then said, "Hey Jan, will you make me one of those too?"