Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Peter Arno: Wedding Belle

A just-married couple make their way down the church steps as the groom expresses a timely apprehension to his new bride. This setting is so familiar to all of us, but Peter Arno's deft touch makes this 1939 composition seem fresh and new. How does he do it?

It's no accident that the bride in white is framed by the darker red carpet. Further emphasis is added here by her own shadow. It's also no accident that the guests directly behind her are in the shadow of the church door while some light gets through only on the left and, to minimize distraction, below the faces. The bride appears unsteady as she leans forward on the stairs with one diminutive foot dangling shakily between the steps. (Note that Arno has not drawn all her features to the same scale as her petite feet.) The groom, in contrast, stands out by wearing dark colors with a white vest and striped trousers which emphasize his height. He's viewed head-on with a broad-based, stable stance, his larger feet already placed on each step as he leans towards the bride to support her. The composition is obviously diagonal, with everyone's eyes directed towards the couple save the chauffeur's.

The caption seems to have been tinkered with by the New Yorker's editors, with salutary results. This is one of those examples where a slightly longer caption makes the gag even funnier. With any luck, the line still works in our own less innocent era.

Peter Arno, "Careful, dear. I wouldn't want to lose you now!"
Published as "Careful now, darling. I wouldn't want to lose you at this stage of the game."
The New Yorker, June 3, 1939, page 16

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Peter Arno, "Careful now, darling. I wouldn't want to lose you at this stage of the game."
The New Yorker, June 3, 1939, page 16

Note:  Twenty-five years ago today my wife and I were wed. We haven't lost each other yet...

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