Prized Van Eyck oil painting finds new home

The masterpiece with 12 panels was completed by the Van Eycks in 1432

Art lovers have even better access to the famous Ghent Altarpiece thanks to a € 30 million upgrade to the Belgian cathedral that houses it.

The painting has been relocated to a new area of ​​St Bavo’s Cathedral to create a “revolutionary” visitor experience.

The painting was completed by Hubert and Jan Van Eyck in 1432 and has fascinated the art world for centuries.

A seven-year restoration project worth EUR 2.2 million (£ 1.8 million) was completed in December 2019.

The new setting of the venerated painting was unveiled on Thursday in the presence of the Flemish Prime Minister and the Bishop of Ghent.

Ghent Altarpiece in St. Bavo's Cathedral

A new glass case was built for the famous painting

It now occupies a place of honor in the larger room of the cathedral’s sacrament chapel, which was previously housed in the Vijd and Villa chapels.

A tailor-made glass showcase was designed to accommodate the polyptych, which consists of 12 panels, under optimal climatic conditions.

The 15th-century painting made headlines last year when restoration work on its central panel revealed that its Lamb of God had a “human-like” face.

The new visitor center is part of a series of Van Eyck-related events in Ghent this year that have been postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020.

Analyzer box by Will Gompertz, art editor

Analyzer box by Will Gompertz, art editor

The Ghent Altarpiece, or the Adoration of the Mystical Lamb, is one of the greatest works of art ever created.

It’s epic in every way: a double-sided 12 panel oil painting celebrating the majesty of God the Father and telling the story of Christ’s sacrifice, which when it is fully extended (the panels are on hinges and can be opened and closed). measures approximately 3.5 mx 4.6 m.

Oil paints had been available to artists for some time when Jan Van Eyck and his brother Hubert (whose artistic contribution is still under debate) created the work in the mid-1420s and early 1430s, but no one had used them with skill and ingenuity when they presented them in this painting.

It’s a masterpiece of the Northern Renaissance, depicting characters with a realism so true that every facial flaw is revealed, and picturesque landscapes so lifelike you can almost smell the fresh grass.

The story goes on

From the tiny jewels in the many crowns to the decorative details of the small chalice into which the blood of the sacrificial lamb flows, no detail is left unattended.

It’s a high definition experience, a 15th century piece of theater that has been admired for centuries. Napoleon grabbed some tablets, Hitler took the whole lot and put it in a salt mine in Austria (this story is featured in George Clooney’s film Monuments Men).

Its story is almost as dramatic as the work itself, which – without question – is worth a trip to Ghent to see it in the flesh.

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