Saint-Bavo's Cathedral - Ghent
"Hubrecht van Eyck, the most famous painter ever
known, started this work of art; his brother Jan, who
was second in the art, finished the task at the request
of Joos Vijd. With this verse the donor consigns the
work to your charge on May 6th 1432. Admire what they
have done for you".
This painting by Hubrecht and Jan van Eyck is the principal work of the Flemisch school in the 15th century.
The main theme is the glorification or the heavenly apotheosis of man's salvation and sanctification by the sacrifice of Christ. This subject is treated in a more visionary than narrative or dramatic manner.
It is painted on oak panels; the paint consists of mineral pigments in a cement of drying oil.
1432: the painting is unveiled
A five-year restoration campaign of the work by the Van Eyck brothers from the 15th century started in the Fall of 2012. The cost of the restoration is projected to be 1,4 million euro.
The restoration is being be carried out by the “Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage” (KIK – IRPA). The trustees of the Saint-Bavo cathedral have appointed Mrs. Anne van Grevenstein-Kruse, emeritus professor of Conservation and Restoration at the University of Amsterdam, to steer the project. An international advisory committee monitors its execution.
The restoration of the painting is necessary in order to prevent further hardening of the coats of varnish which may threaten the picture itself. At the same time the panels will be strengthened. Old touchups and paint-overs will be removed. Following that, new touchups will be applied where necessary and a new coat of varnish will be applied.
The treatment of the panels takes place in the Museum of Fine Arts in Gent using a phased approach. Visitors to the museum are able to follow the work in progress. The museum has set up a safe space to enable life viewing of the ongoing restoration activities.
During the entire restoration campaign, the Ghent Altarpiece itself will remain on view in the Saint-Bavo cathedral, except for the panel undergoing restoration.
This unique project will be extensively documented. The Province of East Flanders takes the lead to provide information to a wider public. Educational programs and special exhibitions relating to this restoration event are being held in the Provincial Cultural Centre in the Caermersklooster in Gent.