Dogs and family, it is no wonder that dogs

Dogs are some of the most commonly used animal
subjects in art throughout history (Barnes). According to author Sara Barnes, dogs
are so popular that “they’ve made appearances with members of the aristocracy, self-portraits
with famous creatives, and been immortalized as balloons…” (Barnes).  Being symbols of love, loyalty, protection,
and family, it is no wonder that dogs have and still are common in the arts. Thus,
it was only natural to include dogs in Northern Renaissance paintings since the
artists of the Northern Renaissance were highly concerned about extreme detail
and symbolism. This symbolism can be seen in the painting The Arnolfini Portrait
by the Netherlandish artist Jan van Eyck. In this painting, we can see a dog between the bride and groom. This could
be symbolic of the couple’s love and loyalty for each other. Also, it could represent
the bride and groom’s desire for a family and thus a child and for said child
to be protected by his canine companion. In addition, the dog could represent
the wealth of the couple since such smaller breeds of dogs were common among
the upper class during the times of the Renaissance. This would make sense
since the painting is believed to be of an aristocratic named Giovanni di
Nicolao Arnolfini, an Italian merchant, and his wife. But the significance of
the dog doesn’t end with just its symbolism. We can see in this artwork the Northern
Renaissance characteristics of pain-staking detail and implied texture as well.
For instance, the fur of the dog looks soft and well kept. Even though you can
see each strand of hair, this fur has no brush strokes due to the oil-based
paint. The viewer gets the feeling that if one were to pet this dog it would be
incredibly soft, warm, and even a quite fluffy. Furthermore, the eyes of the dog
are photo realistic with glimmer and shine and are directed at the viewer. This
direction of the dog’s gaze gives the feeling of a friendly dog you meet that desperately
wants to be petted and loved. Because of this,
the dog seems to be friendlier and more inviting than the couple themselves. Simply put, it seems humans throughout
history have always been fond of dogs and had the desire to express this love.