Symbolism in The Arnolfini Portrait

What is the Arnolfini Portrait

The Arnolfini Portrait, or ‘Arnolfini Wedding Portrait’ was painted in 1434 by the Early Netherlandish painter, Jan Van Eyck. The painting includes conceited elements imbibed with symbolic meanings of marriage, spirituality, and societal values in the Northern Renaissance.


A convex mirror reflects the effigies of the two figures. They are unaware of the object’s presence - the arrogance of the upper-class society. However, it observes all; a symbol of divine presence; a ubiquitous God. The ‘God’ or rather the mirror is a witness to the couple’s union, sealing them in holy matrimony.


Dogs symbolize loyalty and fidelity. The dog bears witness to its masters’ commitment. It may also connote loyalty and fidelity between the couple. In other words, the couple’s commitment to each other is as pious as a dog’s loyalty to its owner.


The carpet is a testament to the couple’s lavish lives - their wealth and social status. In the Early Renaissance, carpets were solely found in affluent homes. These carpets were exquisite, carrying heavy and intricate patterns, yet were trod on.

Green Dress

While a woman traditionally wears white at her wedding, the woman in the painting wears green. The colour green is representative of a woman's fertility. It also symbolizes hope.


Oranges were extremely rare and hence quite precious. A single orange graces the windowsill, while several have fallen onto the floor (without notice). While it is assuredly a testament to the regality of the Arnolfini, they also connote fertility and prosperous union.