Publication – « The Ghent Altarpiece Research and Conservation of the Exterior », dir. Bart Fransen et Cyriel Stroo

Click on the link ‘Online content‘ for a preview of the book (21 pages) and a free copy of Volume 15 The Ghent Altarpiece. A Bibliography (98 pages).

The outer panels of the Ghent Altarpiece had been overpainted to a considerable extent. The virtuosity of the Eyckian technique and aesthetics remained hardly visible. And yet, this had never been observed before the start of the conservation treatment.

By removing the overpaint, the tonal richness and the coherent rendering of light and space once again came to the fore. Especially the suggestion of volumes and the spaciousness of the ensemble gained strength because of the virtuoso play of deep shadows and bright light accents, and not in the least because of the surprising trompe-l’oeil effect of the frames conceived as a stone framework.

Or to put it in the words of the comments of one of the experts, dr. Maryan Ainsworth: The paintings live and breathe again in the time of the Van Eyck brothers. The sharp observation skills, the quick, accurate execution, the knowledge, curiosity and ingenuity about all the things that are depicted, are now unveiled after centuries. The profit for the knowledge of and further research into the essence of Eyckian aesthetics is considerable. And finally there is the discovery that the much-discussed quatrain was applied simultaneously with the polychromy of the frames: a real ‘coup de foudre’ in the discourse of the current art-historical research!

The subtleties of the Eyckian technique could also be mapped out in more detail. How the Van Eycks managed to keep the final result and the desired effect in mind during every phase of the execution, from imprimatura to finishing touch. The artists made a statement about the art of painting, giving ‘technique’ as such a new prominence. The Ghent Altarpiece may be understood at some point as a major showpiece for a highly sophisticated pictorial technique.

We hope that this publication of the results of the research and conservation campaign on the exterior of the altarpiece can help future researchers to ask better questions. Questions, and answers, that may produce a more balanced picture of Van Eyck’s techniques, methods and materials.


Table des matières :

Foreword – Ludo Collin
Preface – Hilde De Clercq, Christina Ceulemans

Introduction – Maximiliaan Martens, Christina Ceulemans, Ron Spronk, Anne van Grevenstein-Kruse
Transformations in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries – Hélène Dubois
Frames and Support: Technique and Structural Treatment – Jochen Ketels, Jean-Albert Glatigny, Anne-Sophie Augustyniak
Paint and Polychromy: Chemical Investigation of the Overpaints – Jana Sanyova, Geert Van der Snickt, H Koen Janssens, Peter Vandenabeele

Conservation and Restoration Treatment 

The Painted Surface – Livia Depuydt-Elbaum, Fran
The Frames: In Search of Lost Unity – Anne-Sophie Augustyniak, Laure Mortiaux

The Van Eycks’ Creative Process

The Paintings: from (Under)drawing to the Final Touch in Paint – Marie Postec, Griet Steyaert
The Frames: an Exceptional Polychromy – Anne-Sophie Augustyniak, Laure Mortiaux, Jana Sanyova
The Authenticity of the Quatrain and the other Frame Inscriptions – Susan Frances Jones, Anne-Sophie Augustyniak, Hélène Dubois
Imagining the Original Display – Bart Fransen, Jean-Albert Glatigny
Restoring in the Public Eye – Bart Devolder

Epilogue: Implications and Perspectives – Cyriel Stroo, Maximiliaan Martens


Photography before and after Treatment – Stéphane Bazzo, Jean-Luc Elias, Katrien Van Acker
Inscriptions on the Exterior – Susan Frances Jones, Marc H. Smith
The Quatrain: a New Reconstruction – Marc H. Smith, Susan Frances Jones, Anne-Sophie Augustyniak
Dimensions of Frames and Supports – Jochen Ketels, Jean-Albert Glatigny, Anne-Sophie Augustyniak
The Ghent Altarpiece: a Bibliography – Dominique Deneffe, Jeroen Reyniers

Project Participants
Photographic Acknowledgements
Index of Names
Index of Works of Art

Informations pratiques :

The Ghent Altarpiece Research and Conservation of the Exterior, dir. Bart Fransen et Cyriel Stroo, Turnhout, Brpeols, 2020 (Contributions to the Study of the Flemish Primitives, 14). X+430 p., 220 x 280 mm. ISBN: 978-2-930054-38-4. Prix : 66,40 euros.

Source : Brepols

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