... a protruding stomach ... is a desirable feature, both socially and visually, and is enhanced by the stance that artists give women. Fertility is a vital quality in a wife and many are in a recurrent state of pregnancy. Those who are not are failures. So a posture which emphasises the stomach, stressed by a high waistline and the folds of a voluminous gown, is the height of elegance.Carola Hicks, Girl in a Green GownBut what of its colour? Carola Hicks claims the green is 'outmoded' ...
While Arnolfini boasted the new black, his wife seemed to be locked in the previous century when bright colours like red, blue and green were the preferred options ... green dye was made from a combination of woad and the herb weld and was easier to brew than fashionable dark shades.... although an historian of natural dyeing might beg to differ. A smooth, saturated green is a fairly simple prospect for a painter employing ground malachite, as van Eyck did, but for a dyer it's another story. Where silk fabrics were invariably dyed in the yarn, i.e. before weaving, wool was generally dyed in the piece ... that's a 50 ell (or 38 yard) piece** in the case of the girl's green dress! Surely only an immensely skilled master dyer could have achieved such even, vibrant colour twice - first in a blue dye bath and then in a yellow - on so large a cloth.
... in my view, this portrait of the Arnolfinis, where each of the main textiles featured is a single solid colour, celebrates the art of the [Flanders] dyer.Susan Kay-Williams, CE of the Royal School of NeedleworkThere is so much more that I could write about the girl's clothes - the maybe 2000 squirrel skins used to line the green gown and trim the blue underdress, the latter most probably minever, or white belly fur, deserve a post of their own - and about the painting as a whole, but I was wondering if instead you'd like to join me in a readalong of Girl in a Green Gown? A history book (it's far from just art history) about which Grayson Perry has said ...
Carola Hicks has reinvigorated my love for the Arnolfini portrait to the point where I want to make my own homage ... I now look at van Eyck's crystalline masterpiece with new wonder, not only at his illusionistic skill and formal rightness but also his social acuity.Perhaps the most moving realisation has been how thin the thread is that has pulled this small glowing panel of wood through history. It has survived five and a half centuries of damp, parties, neglect, adulation and war, not to mention travel by sailing ship and baggage cart. Reading this book has turned every future visit to the National Gallery into a pilgrimage where I must each time if only for a few moments renew my acquaintance with ... the girl in the green gown.What do you think? * Click on the image and then click again for a much enlarged version. ** A replica made in 1997 by students at Wimbledon School of Art used 35 meters/38 yards of fabric.
Don't forget to visit the other Colour Collaborative blogs for more of this month's posts, just click on the links below ... CJ at Above the River Sandra at Cherry Heart Sarah at Mitenska Gillian at Tales from a Happy House Jennifer at Thistlebear What is The Colour Collaborative?All creative bloggers make stuff, gather stuff, shape stuff, and share stuff. Mostly they work on their own, but what happens when a group of them work together? Is a creative collaboration greater than the sum of its parts? We think so and we hope you will too. We'll each be offering our own monthly take on a colour related theme, and hoping that in combination our ideas will encourage us, and perhaps you, to think about colour in new ways.
The children looked well groomed, hair combed, dressed in sweaters, tunics, jackets. It could have been a class photo of kids from an American school of the World War 1 period, until you looked more closely. Until you made contact with their eyes ... until you gazed longer, and the bewilderment, sadness, and pain in their eyes, face by face, stared back at you. Who knew what their stories were and what they had witnessed, to be in Aleppo in 1920.Peter Balakian, from Black Dog of Fate**Perhaps they found solace in spinning and knitting and crochet, as countless others have and do. I sincerely hope they did.