Studies in honor of Eddo Rigotti
Edited By Giovanni Gobber and Andrea Rocci
Boris Uspenskij: A possible reflection of the painter (Jan van Eyck) in the Ghent Altarpiece
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A possible reflection of the painter (Jan van Eyck) in the Ghent Altarpiece
BORIS USPENSKIJ, National Research University “Higher School of Economics”, Moscow
One of the most famous paintings of Jan van Eyck is undoubtedly “The Arnolfini Portrait” of the London National Gallery (1434) (fig. 1)1. This is also one of the most interesting pieces of art from the point of view of semiotics, because it seems to have several levels of meaning (which is characteristic of Van Eyck). When I was teaching in Lugano, it was natural for me to choose this picture as an object of analysis for my seminar on the semiotics of art.
The painting represents a married couple, who can be recognized as the Italian merchant Giovanni Arnolfini and his wife. They are pictured in a Flemish room (possibly at their home at Bruges); on the wall behind them there is a convex mirror. The reflection in the mirror covers more then what is shown in the painting: in the mirror one can see the two represented figures shown from an opposite viewpoint, contrary to that of the observer. Reflected in the mirror, we see the backs of the married couple, and, besides, in front of these two figures (i.e. deeper in the mirror space) it is possible to see two other men standing in the doorway, who are not represented in the picture (fig. 2). They don’t belong to the represented reality, they are...
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