Is London Gallery about to Remove Jan van Eyck’s Painting Because of its Resemblance to Putin?

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Reading Time: 5 minutes


05.04.2023 Update: The comment from the Belgian TV channel 7SUR7 was added to the video.

On March 30, 2023, the Russian propaganda media published an article which claimed that the National Gallery of London is planning to take down Jan van Eyck’s famous canvas – “Arnolfini Portrait,” because of the similarity of his character – Giovanni Arnolfini with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

londonshi eqponati Is London Gallery about to Remove Jan van Eyck’s Painting Because of its Resemblance to Putin?

The information was later published in other Russian propaganda media (,,, as well. The claim was also disseminated by a Georgian-language Facebook account. It should be noted that the media outlets cited as the source. Selected Facebook accounts shared the information with a video, which featured the logo of the Belgian Channel 7sur7.

londonshi eqponati 1 Is London Gallery about to Remove Jan van Eyck’s Painting Because of its Resemblance to Putin?

The claim that London’s National Gallery is going to take down Jan van Eyck’s painting because of its resemblance to Putin is disinformation. The representative of the press service of the gallery mentioned in the correspondence with “Myth Detector” that the canvas is in place and is not planned to be removed from the exhibition. The video, which shows the logo of the Belgian 7sur7, in fact, does not belong to the channel.

  • The London Gallery is not planning to take down “Arnolfini Portrait”

The information, as if the London gallery is going to take down Jan van Eyck’s painting, was initially disseminated by – a Russian propaganda media connected to the St. Petersburg troll factory. The publication writes that the information about the decision was published on March 30. It should be noted that there is no announcement of similar content on any of the gallery’s official pages (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram). “Myth Detector” contacted the press office of the National Gallery in London. The press officer, Esmee Wright, noted that the picture is on the display and is not planned to be taken down.

Esmee Wright, London Gallery: “The painting you refer to is the Portrait of Giovanni Arnolfini and his Wife (The Arnolfini Marriage) by Jan van Eyck (1434) and is currently on display in Room 28. There are no plans to remove this painting from display.”

In the Russian media, the mentioned fact is linked to Russophobia. Украина.ru also spreads the version that the similarity between Vladimir Putin and Giovanni Arnolfini was noticed by a Ukrainian employee of the gallery, who turned out to be a sober patriot of “Mother Ukraine” even in foggy Albion.

  • The video published with the logo of Belgian Media 7SUR7 is fabricated

Selected Facebook users disseminated the above-mentioned claim along with a video that featured the logo of Belgian media outlet 7SUR7. It should be noted that no such video can be found on any media platforms (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter) of 7SUR7. “Myth Detector” contacted 7SUR7. In written correspondence, they noted that the video is fake and does not belong to the channel.

7SUR7: “This is indeed a fake video that was not made by our team or published on our page. We will report it as well.”

  • Jan van Eyck and “Arnolfini Portrait”

Jan van Eyck, a 15th-century Flemish painter, is considered one of the founders of Early Netherlandish painting. His name is associated with the origin of a painting style characterized by detailed, realistic depictions of surface effects and natural lighting. He is considered a great master of portraiture.

The “Arnolfini Portrait” is one of the outstanding canvases of the artist, which remains a mysterious painting for many. The canvas dates back to 1434 and is exhibited in the National Gallery in London.

image Is London Gallery about to Remove Jan van Eyck’s Painting Because of its Resemblance to Putin?
Source: National Gallery, London

For years there have been questions about the identity of the characters depicted in the portrait. Nowadays, it is believed that the picture shows Giovanni Arnolfini and his wife. The Arnolphins were a large family of Italian merchants, and many of the family members lived in Bruges at the time. There are more questions about the identity of the woman depicted on the canvas. According to one of the versions, she was the second wife of Giovanni Arnolfini – Giovanna Cenami, although it is worth noting that they were married in 1447, (that is, 13 years after the painting was created and six years after the death of Jan van Eyck), so it is unlikely that she is the person depicted on the painting. According to the second version, the portrait may depict Giovanni Arnolfini’s first wife – Costanza Trenta, whom he married in 1426. Although Costanza Trenta had died a year before the portrait was painted, it was also a common practice to paint portraits of dead people. There is also a version that the dog seen at the woman’s leg also had a symbolic meaning, and it was believed that it would guide the deceased in the afterlife. Perhaps the dog was painted to acknowledge the death of Costanza Trenta or to express devotion to her.

londonshi eqponati 2 Is London Gallery about to Remove Jan van Eyck’s Painting Because of its Resemblance to Putin?
Source: National Gallery, London

About the Sources

ФАН [Fan] and the Russian Troll Factory

The Russian propaganda news agency ФАН is considered one of the projects of the Russian troll factory. In April 2017, the Russian publication “РБК” published the results of a journalistic investigation, according to which the activities of the “Russian Troll Factory” included 16 media outlets supporting Kremlin policies. All 16 media holdings were part of the Federal News Agency (ФАН) and systematically disseminated each other’s materials. Based on EU vs. Disinfo, Myth Detector wrote about ФАН in the past as well.

About 400 employees worked in the “Russian Troll Factory” in St. Petersburg and disseminated messages of the Kremlin on social networks and Internet sites. One of the main tasks of the agency was to influence the US elections. “Troll Factory” was exposed in June 2015 as a result of a lawsuit filed by journalist and activist Lyudmila Savchuk in court for non-payment of wages. According to her, employees were paid up to $750 a month to write pro-Putin comments.

The owner of the “Russian Troll Factory” is businessman and billionaire Yevgeny Prigozhin, who is also referred to as “Putin’s chef”. In 2016, Prigozhin was placed on the US Commerce Department’s list of sanctioned individuals for his financial support for Russia’s military occupation of Ukraine.

Ioseb Sirabidze

Ioseb Sirabidze, the Georgian-language Facebook account, that disseminated the above-mentioned claim in the Georgian media, is the supporter of the pro-Kremlin “Conservative Movement” party and shows the logos of the party on both the profile picture and the cover photo. The Facebook user justifies Russian invasion of Ukraine and often published posts of anti-Western and anti-Ukrainian content. 

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Topic: Politics
Violation: Disinformation
Country: Great Britain

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