Wednesday, July 31, 2019

LUX ET VERITAS: Jan van Eyck’s Eye

The Marriage of the Arnolfini
Jan van Eyck
National Gallery of Art, London 

Jan van Eyck’s Arnolfini Marriage is one of the great secular masterpieces of early Nederlandisch painting and the northern Renaissance. That it is a secular painting, and not religious, is also what makes it so iconic and important. 

In the back of the painting, on the far wall, at the vanishing point, is a wondrous mirror, above which are these words in Latin: “Johannes de Eyck fuit hic” - “Jan van Eyck was here.” 
Jan van Eyck bore witness to the marriage of the Arnolfini with his presence, and he bore witness to his presence in the mirror. 

Here is a fine article about Jan van Eyck, his masterpiece the Arnolfini Portrait, Nikolaus Cusanus, and that wondrous and all-revealing mirror:

Beryllus lapis est lucidus, albus et transparens. Cui datur forma concava pariter et convexa, et per ipsum, videns attingit prius invisible. Intellectualibus oculis si intellectualis beryllus, qui formam habeat maximam pariter et minimam, adaptur, per eius medium attingitus indivisibile omnium principum.

The beryl is a brilliant, white and transparent stone. It is possessed simultaneously of a concave and a convex form, and whoever attempts to peer through it comes across things hitherto invisible. If we measure a beryl to reason and fix the gaze of eyes of reason upon it, we perceive the greatest and the smallest forms at once and are thus affected by the recognition of the inseparable origins of the all.

–Niclas Krebs, later Cardinal Nicholas of Kues (Nikolaus Cusanus), De beryllo, cap. ii (1458) in Nikolaus von Kues’ philosophisch-theologische Werke in deutscher und lateinischer Sprache, vol. 3, p. 4 (S.H. transl

The Marriage of the Arnolfini
Jan Van Eyck

NGA, London

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