07 March 2012

Art History Wednesday!

Arnolfini Portrait; Jan Van Eyck; 1434
Jan Van Eyck was a trendsetter in his time. In 1434, he painted Giovanni Arnolfini and His Bride. Van Eyck had a very particular style of painting that lent itself to painting opulent portraits of people. Giovanni Arnolfini was a wealthy Italian merchant, and he more than likely wanted people to remember this. He and his wife are painted in what is believed to be their house. Van Eyck painted in translucent, but richly colored layers. This technique is what gives the painting its vibrancy. Having color in one’s life in 1434 was a big deal, because dyes were expensive. Fabric was also expensive, and Arnolfini’s wife’s dress has plenty of extra yardage on it. They were clearly showing off.
People have always found a way to show off somehow in portraits. The Arnolfinis showed their wealth through their excess of colorful fabrics. In the Victorian Ages, people wore their finest clothing and their biggest hair. Military personnel show off their rankings through their badges and ribbons.
Todd Selby has taken the art of “showing off” in a photograph to a new level. Or is it new? Selby is by trade a fashion photographer, and with this territory has many famous friends and clients. His current on-going project is “The Selby Is In Your Place”. It is a collection of photographs that he has taken of his friends in their homes. Some are in their living rooms; some are in their closets. All of them show the things that these people are proud of. Much like the Arnolfinis and their fabrics.

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