The Ghent Altarpiece (wings closed) – (Jan Van Eyck) Previous Next


Artist:

Style: Renaissance

Topic: Fly Arts Scenes

Date: 1432

Museum: St Bavon (Ghent, Belgium)

Technique: Oil

The Ghent Altarpiece or Adoration of the Mystic Lamb (Dutch: Het Lam Gods or The Lamb of God; completed 1432) is a very large and complex Early Netherlandish polyptych panel painting which is considered to be one of Belgium's masterpieces and one of the world's treasures. It was once in the Joost Vijdt chapel at Saint Bavo Cathedral, Ghent, Belgium, but was later moved for security reasons to the chapel of the cathedral. Commissioned by the wealthy merchant and financier Joost Vijdt for his and his wife's private chapel, it was begun by Hubert van Eyck, who died in 1426 whilst work was underway, and completed by his younger brother Jan van Eyck. The altarpiece represented a "new conception of art", in which the idealization of the medieval tradition gave way to an exacting observation of nature. The altarpiece consists of a total of 24 compartmented scenes, which make up two views, open and closed, which are changed by moving the hinged outer wings. The upper register (row) of the opened view shows Christ the King (but see below) between the Virgin Mary and John the Baptist. The insides of the wings represent angels singing and making music, and on the outside Adam and Eve. The lower register of the central panel shows the adoration of the Lamb of God, with several groups in attendance and streaming in to worship, overseen by the dove representing the Holy Spirit. On weekdays the wings were closed, showing the Annunciation of Mary and donor portraits of Joost Vijdt and his wife Lysbette Borluut. There used to be an inscription on the frame stating that Hubert van Eyck maior quo nemo repertus (greater than anyone) started the altarpiece, but that Jan van Eyck - calling himself arte secundus (second best in the art) - finished it in 1432. The original, very ornate carved outer frame and surround, presumably harmonizing with the painted tracery, was destroyed during the Reformation; there has been speculation that it may have included clockwork mechanisms for moving the shutters and even playing music. The original lower left panel known as The Just Judges was stolen in 1934. The original panel has never been found and has been replaced by a copy made in 1945 by Jef Vanderveken. The stolen panel figures prominently in Albert Camus' novel La chute.

This artwork is in the public domain.

Artist

Jan Van Eyck

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