Since 2012, the website Closer to Van Eyck has made it possible for millions around the globe to zoom in on the intricate, breathtaking details of the Ghent Altarpiece, one of the most celebrated works of art in the world. More than a quarter million people have taken advantage of the opportunity so far in 2020.
Image: The Lamb of God on the central panel, courtesy to Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage (KIK-IRPA)
Since 2012, the website Closer to Van Eyck has made it possible for millions around the globe to zoom in on the intricate, breathtaking details of the Ghent Altarpiece, one of the most celebrated works of art in the world.
More than a quarter million people have taken advantage of the opportunity so far in 2020, and website visitorship has increased by 800% since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, underscoring the potential for modern digital technology to increase access to masterpieces from all eras and learn more about them.
The Lamb of God on the central panel, from left to right: before restoration (with the 16th-century overpaint still present), during restoration (showing the van Eycks’ original Lamb from 1432 before retouching), after retouching (the final result of the restoration), courtesy to Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage (KIK-IRPA)
The Getty and the Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage (KIK-IRPA, Brussels, Belgium), in collaboration with the Gieskes Strijbis Fund in Amsterdam, are giving visitors even more ways to explore this monumental work of art from afar, with the launch today of a new version of the site that includes images of recently restored sections of the paintings as well as new videos and education materials.
Located at St. Bavo’s Cathedral in Ghent, Belgium, The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb (1432) by Hubert and Jan van Eyck, also known as the Ghent Altarpiece, is a stunningly beautiful and highly complex polyptych that features biblical themes and figures. After centuries of accumulating dirt, yellowed varnishes, and extensive overpainting (as well as enduring a brief stint in storage in a salt mine during World War II), the artwork was in dire need of a full restoration.
Detail from the Pilgrims: The infrared reflectography image on the left shows both elaborate underdrawing in the figures andunderpainting for the foliage. Comparison with the image on the right reveals the artist’s creative process: The two trees in the center were not initially planned but added later by the van Eycks, after the sky was already completed, courtesy to Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage (KIK-IRPA)
Two-thirds of the work of art has already been treated by a team of highly skilled conservators from KIK-IRPA.
The first phase of the restoration (on the exterior panels, visible when the altarpiece is closed) was completed in 2016. It reached a new milestone in December last year with the completion of the second phase, which included the restoration of the eponymous Adoration of the Lamb and the results of which are now available to view on the updated site. The conservation treatment has been captured in full through ultra-high resolution photographic and scientific documentation by KIK-IRPA’s imagery team and all these images can now be studied on Van Eyck.
Major updates include:
Closer to New after-treatment images on Closer to Van Eyck present many of the scenes in the altarpiece as they were originally meant to be seen. This includes the much-publicized Lamb of God at the very center of the painting (above), which had been ‘toned down’ by a 16th-century overpainting. Interdisciplinary state-of-the art research allowed for the removal of this layer of overpaint, finally revealing the Van Eycks’ intense representation of the Lamb’s human-like features. High-resolution images before, during and after restoration now allow visitors to compare the results for themselves.
Discover the Ghent Altarpi here.
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