The Ghent Altarpiece, painted by the Van Eyck brothers and completed in 1432, is one of the masterpieces of early Netherlandish painting. It is also a work with an eventful history. In 1821 the wings of the altarpiece were acquired for Berlin as part of the Solly Collection. In 1920, however, they were ceded as reparations to Belgium by the German Reich under the Treaty of Versailles.
In the central hall of the Gemäldegalerie in Berlin, the Ghent Altarpiece has now been reconstructed to its original size from 16th and 17th century copies and from photographs taken of the wings when they were housed here. Alongside, the work's centuries of chequered history are also retraced. In addition, there is a documentary with pictorial records of important stages in the recognition of the work's importance and its presentation to the public in Berlin: the excitement of the early researchers into early Netherlandish painting, the various ways in which the work was exhibited and the sometimes drastic restoration measures to which it was submitted.
As part of the programme for the commemorative year, "1914. Aufbruch. Weltbruch", the exhibition also addresses the reason why the Treaty of Versailles demanded the wings of the altarpiece as reparation: the massive war damage suffered by Belgium.
Expo The Ghent Altarpiece by the Van Eyck brothers in Berlin. 1820-1920
September 4 2014 - March 29 2015
Gemäldegalerie / Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
(News item September 11 2014)