Friday, 15 November 2013

The Ghent Altarpiece. Saint Bavo Cathedral. Jan Van Eyck.


Text and Illustrations from Wikipedia - the free encyclopaedia,
unless otherwise stated.



English: Ghent Altarpiece.
Français: Retable de L'Agneau mystique.
日本語: ヘントの祭壇画
Source: en.wikipedia.
Author: Copyright Pol Mayer / 
Paul M.R. Maeyaert (en.wikipedia).
(Wikimedia Commons)


File:Kooromgang gent.JPG

Saint Bavo Cathedral,
Ghent, Belgium.
Photo: 9 November 2006.
Source: Own work.
Author: Carolus.
(Wikimedia Commons)



Jan and Hubert van Eyck: 
The Ghent Altarpiece.
Cathedral of Saint Bavo.
Music by Pergolesi.
Available on YouTube at


The Ghent Altarpiece (also called the Adoration of the Mystic Lamb or The Lamb of God (Dutch: Het Lam Gods) is a very large and complex Early-15th-Century Early Flemish polyptych panel painting. It comprises an Altarpiece of 12 panels, eight of which are hinged shutters. These wings are painted on both sides, giving two very distinct views depending on whether they are open or closed.

Outside of Sundays and festive holidays, the work was displayed with the outer wings closed, and was often covered with a cloth. The work was commissioned from Hubert van Eyck, about whom little is known. Hubert was most likely responsible for the overall design, but died in 1426. It seems to have been principally executed and completed by his younger and better known brother, Jan van Eyck, between 1430 – 1432.

Although there have been extensive attempts over the centuries to isolate the passages attributable to either brother, no separation has been convincingly established. Today, most accept that the work was probably designed and constructed by Hubert, and that the individual panels were painted by Jan, after his return from diplomatic duties in Spain.



The closed view. Back Panels.
English: Ghent Altarpiece.
日本語: ヘントの祭壇画.
Source: en.wikipedia.
Author: User:Copyright Pol Mayer / 
Paul M.R. Maeyaert (en.wikipedia).
(Wikimedia Commons)


The Altarpiece was commissioned by the merchant, financier and politician, Joost Vijdt, then holding a position in Ghent similar to City Mayor. It was designed for the Chapel for whom he and his wife acted as benefactors, today's Saint Bavo Cathedral, at the time the Parochial Church of John the Baptist, Patron Saint of the city.

It was officially installed on 6 May 1432 to coincide with an official ceremony for Philip the Good. It was later moved for security reasons to the principal Cathedral Chapel, where it remains. While indebted to the International Gothic as well as both Byzantine and Romanic traditions, the Altarpiece represented a "new conception of art", in which the idealisation of the Mediaeval tradition gave way to an exacting observation of nature and un-idealised human representation.


File:Retable de l'Agneau mystique (3).jpg

The Virgin Mary.
Jan van Eyck (1390 -1441.
Retable de l'Agneau mystique.
Gand.
This File: 14 April 2005.
User: Petrusbarbygere.
(Wikimedia Commons)


A now lost inscription on the frame stated 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) – completed it in 1432.

The original, very ornate, carved outer frame and surround, presumably harmonising 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.


File:Retable de l'Agneau mystique (2).jpg

The central figure, 
usually referred to as
"The Almighty".
Jan van Eyck (1390 -1441.
Retable de l'Agneau mystique.
Gand.
This File: 14 April 2005.
User: Petrusbarbygere.
(Wikimedia Commons)


The outer panels contain two vertically-stacked registers (rows). The upper rows show scenes from the Annunciation of Mary. The four lower-register panels are divided into two pairs; sculptural grisaille paintings of John the Baptist and John the Evangelist, and on the two outer panels, donor portraits of Joost Vijdt and his wife, Lysbette Borluut.

The upper register of the opened view shows a Deësis of Christ the King, Virgin Mary and John the Baptist. They are flanked by images of Angels singing and playing music, and, on the outermost panels, Adam and Eve. The lower register of the central panel shows the adoration of the Lamb of God, with several groups in attendance or streaming in to worship, overseen by the dove of the Holy Spirit.


File:Retable de l'Agneau mystique (4).jpg

Saint John The Baptist.
Jan van Eyck (1390 -1441.
Retable de l'Agneau mystique.
Gand.
This File: 14 April 2005.
User: Petrusbarbygere.
(Wikimedia Commons)


Since its creation, the Altarpiece has been considered one of Northern European art's masterpieces and one of the world's treasures. Over the centuries, the panels have come close to being destroyed during outbreaks of iconoclasm, been moved and damaged by fire, while some have been sold, and others taken during wars.

After all the panels were again returned to Saint Bavo Cathedral, following World War I, in 1934, the lower left panel, The Just Judges, was stolen. The panel has not been recovered. In 1945, after the Altarpiece was returned from Germany, having spent much of World War II hidden in a salt mine, which greatly damaged the paint and varnishes, Jef Van der Veken produced a copy of the stolen panel, as part of an overall restoration effort.


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