Girl In A Green Gown: The History and Mystery of the Arnolfini Portrait
Girl In A Green Gown: The History and Mystery of the Arnolfini Portrait by Carola Hicks, Random House, $39.95
It's been an eventful 600 years for this masterpiece of western art. Painted in 1434 by Jan van Eyck, this glorious portrait of a wealthy Bruges merchant (with an unfortunate resemblance to Vladimir Putin) and his richly gowned wife has inspired artists throughout history; from the Renaissance all the way through to the more recent reinterpretation of the pair as Muppet and Star Wars figures.
Very little is known about Mr and Mrs Arnolfini but everything in the painting speaks to us of their wealth, and Hicks amusingly compares the portrait to a shoot for Hello magazine.
This book is refreshingly entertaining and educational, taking us into the rich symbolism of the painting, and travelling with it from aspirational medieval Bruges to the courts of Europe, its plunder in the Napoleonic wars and its extraordinary popularity today in Britain's National Gallery.