Essay on Symbols of Marriage in "Giovanni Arnolfini and His Bride"

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In the 15th century painting Giovanni Arnolfini and His Bride, Jan van Eyck ingeniously incorporates many everyday items that symbolize something meaningful in this snapshot of a marriage ceremony. Each item is placed very naturally in this painting and none of them stand out as being unusual, but still each has a meaning that adds to the idea of what this marriage is. These symbols also perhaps could be the artist's opinion on what a marriage should stand for. As I first analyzed this picture I noticed a few things. One of the more obvious symbols of marriage that was represented in this painting is the placement of the figures hands. The groom is holding the bride's hand in his left and his right hand is held up as if he's making an …show more content…
There are also some not as prominent objects that still have meaning in this painting. Above the mirror is a chandelier. What struck me about this fixture is that there is only one lit candle in it, even though it could hold more. This could be a symbol of the new unity of the couple. Because they are being married they are becoming one. This single lit candle could symbolize the unification of their hearts and lives. By leaving spaces in the chandelier empty it emphasizes the oneness that they are agreeing to in this ceremony. At the bride's feet is a small dog. Because dogs are known to be man's most loyal pet, it could have been placed in the painting to symbolize loyalty. Since a marriage is a union between a man and woman, this dog could symbolize the commitment that they are making to stay loyal to each other. There is also some fruit on the windowsill and table behind the bride and groom. Because fruit holds the seeds for trees, it could be seen as a symbol of new life or fertility. In this case it could symbolize the fruitfulness of the new couple in their child bearing. They could be a sign of the offspring that this couple wishes to or is planning to have. One other item that I thought had important meaning behind it is the duster that is hanging by the side of the bed that may symbolize the brides new part that she will play in the home. A broom or duster,

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