The Arnolfini portrait, painted by Jan van Eyck in 1434, is one of the world's most famous paintings. This haunting gem of medieval art, a subtle and beautiful portrait of a wealthy Bruges merchant and his wife, intrigues all who see it.
Is the painting the celebration of marriage or pregnancy, a memorial to a wife who died in childbirth, a fashion statement or a status symbol? Using her acclaimed forensic skills as an art historian, Carola Hicks set out to decode the mystery.
She also tells the fascinating story of the painting's survival through fire and battle, and of its owners. Uniquely, for a masterpiece of its age, its provenance can be tracked through every single owner - from the mysterious Mr Arnolfini via various monarchs to being an early star of the National Gallery in 1842- and these owners have a cameo appearance too, in this enthralling story of how an artwork of genius can speak afresh to each new generation.
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The book has sent me back to the painting...with wider and more inquisitive eyes - Observer
An author who opens our eyes, deepens our understanding and makes us keen to look again - Daily Mail
Hicks tells a truly fascinating story about image and ownership, based on diligent, well-digested research - Irish Times
A brilliantly idiosyncratic investigation which alternates chapters internal to the picture (the fashions, the furniture, the oranges, the mirror) with chapters on its production and historical meanderings - Tablet
Meticulously weaving an analysis of the portrait with chapters devoted to political and social history - Metro
Engaging - Literary Review
This beautifully written book is a splendid testament to the intelligence, attention to detail, depth of research, and down to earth vision of a first rate scholar - Times Literary Supplement
There are still interesting things to be said about Van Eyck's great double portrait - Independent, Books of the Year
Exploring the double-portrait image in often revelatory detail, Hicks presents a truly inspiring picture of her own - The Times, Books of the Year
No-one can write, and explain, like Hicks. Here her mastery is complete - Spectator
This impressive work of art historical scholarship is in every way as engaging as its subject - Irish Examiner
Carola Hicks, an acclaimed art historian, and witty, perceptive writer, died in 2010 just as she was finishing this book. Born in Sussex, Carola studied archaeology at Edinburgh University, and was an actress, journalist and House of Commons Researcher, before taking up an academic career. For several years she was curator of the Stained Glass Museum at Ely Cathedral, and then became a Fellow and Director of Studies in art history at Newnham College, Cambridge. Her books include Animals in Early Medieval Art, Improper Pursuits: The Scandalous Life of Lady Di Beauclerk, and two fine 'biographies' of works of art: The Bayeux Tapestry: The Life Story of a Masterpiece and The King's Glass: A Story of Tudor Power and Secret Art.