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Three Double Portraits
Portraits always tread a tightrope between the expectations of the sitter and the capacities of the artist, between likeness and style, appearance and insight. Double portraits see this tension taken a significant step further, inviting the viewer to explore the ways a relationship can be revealed (or occluded) via its representation.
The Arnolfini Portrait - Jan van Eyck, 1434
Among the most influential works of the Flemish Renaissance, and a key early acquisition of the National Gallery, van Eyck’s exquisitely painted little panel encodes rituals of identity we still don’t fully understand. Does it really show Italian merchant Giovanni Arnolfini, does it record a marriage or betrothal and should we really see the dazzlingly naturalistic details of the couple’s bed-chamber as symbols telling us about the sitters’ lives and social context?
Subsequent lectures are:
Wednesday 22nd March - The Ambassadors by Holbein
Wednesday 29th March - Mr and Mrs Andrews by Thomas Gainsborough
All three paintings are in the National Gallery, London.
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