The future bride is a virtuous woman, with beautiful physical attributes, coming from an equally wealthy family.
Moving on with the analysis of the symbols, we must underline the importance of their position in space. She is inside and he is outside. The inside of the house is a symbol of the private space, while the outside is the symbol of the public space. Residing in these spaces, the characters become symbols of them. We notice a blunt dichotomy in terms of gender definition. The man belongs to the public sphere, where the decisions are taken. The woman belongs to the private one, where she passively obeys the husband. The painter shows that the social role of the woman was that of a home maker. The role of the man is a lot more complex, as he stands outside, but gazes inside. Reading between the lines we understand that he is a decision maker in both the spaces where he finds himself.
In fact, analyzing the body posture, we realize that the woman is very still and in a submissive type of pose. She attends quietly. Her destiny has been decided for her. She is beautiful and virtuous, but in the end she is a well adorned object that the man is to posses and control according to his own wish. The fact that she takes up most of the space in the painting suggests that the painter wished to render the idea of how beautiful and important she is- in a way that would persuade the future husband that she is a good arrangement. The fancy dress and the jewels are a sign of her social status and they are there in order for him to see them. It was customary during the Renaissance times for a woman to be seen as the property of her husband after marriage, together with all of her belongings. Lippi makes sure that the future husband will understand exactly what type of possession he will acquire. The shadow of the man's face on the wall underlines the realism of the scene.
Another interpretation that was given to the painting focuses on the religious sphere. "Is it possible that the man's placement was inspired by a passage from the Song of Solomon (2:9) interpreted as an allegory of the marriage of Christ and Mary, or the Church: "Behold, he standeth behind our wall, he looketh forth at the windows, showing himself through the lattice"?
From this perspective, the woman is no longer an incarnation of the typical spouse in an arranged marriage, but the very symbol of spirituality. The man on the other hand is the incarnation of God on the earth. Him being outside suggests his double dimension, both spiritual and human. The fact that their looks do not meet signifies that their union has been established by some other superior instance. In addition, it suggests that the union is not made at a human level (that of the eyes), but in the superior area of the spirit. The richness of the woman is associated with the richness that the Church as an institution might have. We know however that the richness of the man (Christ) is bigger, because it is not from this world. The attributes of virtuosity and pure spirit are necessary in order for the future groom to accept his bride.
Regardless of the interpretation key that we adopt, the painting remains one of the most beautiful created by Lippi. Referring to his style, some argue that "his pictures show the naivete of a strong, rich nature, redundant in lively and somewhat whimsical observation. He approaches religious art from its human side, and is not pietistic though true to a phase of Catholic devotion. He was perhaps the greatest colorist and technical adept of his time, with good draftsmanship. As a naturalist, he had less vulgar realism than some of his contemporaries, and with much genuine episodic animation, including semi-humorous incidents and low characters."
All in all, the "Portrait of a woman with a man at a casement" is a remarkable piece of art from the early Italian Renaissance, demonstrating not only the technical procedures of the time, but also the morals and customs of the Italian society.
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Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. Portrait of a woman with a man at a casement .