Gillian Tindall

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

Girl in a Green Gown: The History and Mystery of the Arnolfini Portrait

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Chatto & Windus 256pp £16.99 order from our bookshop

The picture we have come to call the Arnolfini Portrait is one of the best known, best loved, and most reproduced, copied, satirised and speculated upon in the world. Painted in Bruges by Jan van Eyck in 1434 (the inscription on the wall above a central, round mirror is generally agreed to testify to that), it shows a big-hatted, long-nosed man who resembles a revered doctor or the Mad Hatter according to the eye of the viewer. He is apparently making some kind of vow with his raised right hand while with his left he holds the hand of a girl in a wimple and a voluminous green gown, who may either be pregnant or just a fashionable, late medieval shape.

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