Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Goin' to the chapel

Folks, it is wedding season. I don't know about ya'll, but I have quite a few beloved friends that have become betrothed the past year and the festivities are beginning! Just this past weekend I was in Charleston, SC helping two such friends celebrate and prep for their special days. So, given its presence in my world at the moment, I thought I'd share some of my favorite Bridal/Wedding artworks with ya'll. Just to get you in the mood.

Claire, Jacqueline, Lacey, Lauren, Jade, Mallory (in order of upcoming nuptials!)...this is for you.

"In a time when nothing is more certain than change, the commitment of two people to one another has become difficult and rare. Yet, by its scarcity, the beauty and value of this exchange have only been enhanced."
- Richard Sexton

In two (yes, TWO) of the bridal boutiques we visited dress shopping, this painting was hung on the wall:

The Wedding Morning
John Henry Frederick Bacon, oil on canvas, 1892

In the boutiques themselves, I was a little skeptical of the rather sedated, neutral palette of the painting. It seemed more muted then exciting for me, just off the bat. But the more I looked at it, the more I appreciated it. First of all, the bride is gorgeous...her dress, her beautiful veil. She's glowing. The pure white of her gown really emphasizes her as the focal point of the painting, her flocking entourage really just intentional haze around her. When you look closely, you can also see sunlight reflecting on the floor through the window behind her and light through the open door...in contrast, you also have the darkness of the fireplace. There's a lot of great light and shadow play here. There's also a range of facial expressions, appropriate for a wedding day...the calm of the seamstress grandmother, either boredom or fascination of the younger child (hard to tell with her face tilted away), the emotional and/or curious other onlookers. I think it really captures the last details being put on the morning before the ceremony begins!

Signing the register
Edmund Blair Leighton, oil on canvas, undated (likely between 1900-1920)

Leighton was a Pre-Raphaelite painter (1852-1922), that's why his style might remind you of John William Waterhouse.

I really, really like this one. Leighton actually has done quite a few wedding related paintings, this was just my favorite. Here we have the bride in the act of actually signing the marriage papers, which I think is a rare theme. I don't know about ya'll, but I typically forget all about signing the marriage license. It's all about the ceremony, right? So, I love the unusual treatment of the marriage theme, the light shining on the bride through the window, the serene calm of the groom, and the bride's own elegant sweetness. While you might (unknowingly) be most familiar with Leighton through his work The Accolade, his other wedding paintings include Till Death Do Us Part and A Call to Arms.

The Wedding
Johann Hamza, oil on canvas, undated

Johann Hamza (1850-1927) was an Austro-Hungarian painter based primarily out of Vienna. He was a painter of the figurative genre, focusing on dail social ritual of the rich bourgeoisie in Vienna. His painting, The Christening, takes place in the same Rococo church pictured above in The Wedding! This picture makes me happy for the fun costuming, the rich detail of the Rococo church, and the general feeling of celebration. While the last two paintings have been a little more calming and taking care of business, this piece almost seems to suggest that the ceremony's over and the guests are coming to give their congratulations to the couple. Happy!

The Arnolfini Wedding
Jan van Eyck, oil on oak panel, 1434

I would be a very, very bad Art Historian indeed if I did not mention The Arnolfini Wedding in this post. This painting was a monumental accomplishment of its time, not only for its precise capture of the most minute details, but also for clearly and effectively depicting a plausible space interior and its inhabitants in a realistic manner. I know it doesn't look like what we consider a typical wedding portrait, but for 1434 I'm sure it was very true. My FAVORITE part of this piece (which you can't see in my image...Google it :D) is that van Eyck painted the reflection of the couple in the mirror behind them, as well as others in the room that we, as viewers, don't otherwise see. It's like we're being painted in too! Wikipedia actually has a huge explanation of all of this painting's details and symbols, so definitely take a look.

The Wedding of Emperor Nicholas II and Empress Alixandra (Hesse) Feodrovna.
Laurits Regner Tuxen, oil on canvas, 1895

I don't know about ya'll, but I've always been fascinated with the Anastasia story and imperial Russian fashion in general. This particular painting portrays the wedding of Nicholas and Alexandra, Anastasia's parents, shortly after the death of Nicholas's father. Though their story met an exceptionally tragic end and faced almost constant hardship during their lifetime, by all accounts Nicholas and Alexandra were truly and positively in love.

They first met in 1884 and when she returned to visit in 1889, they fell in love. She refused the proposal of another despite familial pressure and Nicholas was quoted in a diary entry to have said "It is my dream to one day marry Alix H. I have loved her for a long time, but more deeply and strongly since 1889 when she spent six weeks in Petersburg. For a long time, I have resisted my feeling that my dearest dream will come true." Their wedding took place on November 26, 1894 at the chapel of the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg and remained sincerely devoted to one another until their deaths in March of 1917.

"[W]hen you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible."
- Nora Ephron, When Harry Met Sally


  1. Weddings! I love weddings! Drinks all around!

  2. fabulous post! and hooray for ending with When Harry Met Sally! :)