Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2017

Document Type

Thesis

Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors

Department

Art History

First Advisor

Claire Farago

Second Advisor

Robert Nauman

Third Advisor

Kerry Reilly

Abstract

This thesis investigates the origins of objects and the meaning of gestures in Jan van Eyck’s Arnolfini Wedding Portrait (1434) from a transcultural perspective. Drawing upon the older scholarship, which it seeks to redirect by using reception theory and a de-colonial approach, I conclude that writing history is always strategic, never neutral, and that the historical record itself is laden with unresolvable ambiguities in the present case. For centuries, scholars have examined the painting and its details without reaching a consensus. My thesis examines the various interpretations of the painting through reception theory, taking into account who its intended primary audience and later viewers would have been.

My original research emphasizes the necessity of understanding the work through this multicultural lens. Many of the objects and gestures have been identified on the basis of their appearance in multiple works of art made in the same period and region. However, the same elements can be found in different cultural contexts associated with different meanings. In the final analysis, this study intends to open the discussion of the Arnolfini Wedding Portrait to transcultural perspectives by focusing on the extra-European origins of the objects depicted and the multiple meanings assigned to its conventional gestures.

Share

COinS