Groeninge Museum Masterpiece Shines in National Geographic Documentary

The National Geographic Channel is renowned worldwide for its documentaries on Science and Nature. For the first time in the history of the channel, a Flemish series of five scientific documentaries has been made. In the series, Behind the Science, there is a behind-the-scenes look at the scientific research going on at the University of Antwerp. On 21 March, the series begins with the documentary Verborgen meesterwerken (Hidden Masterpieces) in which Hans Memling's Moreel Triptych (Groeninge Museum in Bruges) is examined in detail.

In Verborgen meesterwerken, the viewer discovers which secrets lie hidden under the layers of paint on masterpieces. In this documentary, the research team of Professor Koen Janssens of the University of Antwerp, the so-called Antwerp X-Ray imaging and instrumentation laboratory (AXiL), presents a number of extraordinary research results. In 2007, the scientists from the University of Antwerp and the Technical University of Delft were successful in developing a scanning technique by which hidden paintings underneath existing works of art could be discovered.

One of the works investigated is Hans Memling's (Ca. 1435-1494) Saint Christopher Altarpiece, better known as the Moreel Triptych. The Moreel Triptych is one of the eye catchers in the collection of the Groeninge Museum in Bruges. In 1484, Memling received the commission from the Bruges grocer and politician Willem Moreel for an altarpiece for his family chapel in the St. Jacob's Church in Bruges. No less than sixteen of the eighteen children by the Moreel couple figure in on the side panels of the work. Even after the completion of the work, still more children were added. It is then at the time one of the earliest examples of a group portrait. In the documentary, Verborgen meesterwerken, the viewer discovers what is to be found under the layers of paint on the Moreel Triptych.

With Behind the Science, the University of Antwerp hopes to also engage a youthful audience to help interest them in a scientific course of study. Alain Verschoren, (Rector of the University of Antwerp), says: "[The] National Geographic Channel is perhaps the ideal channel to let everyone see that Science is challenging, exciting and necessary for our lives".

Five documentaries about a variety of themes are bound to bring people and Science closer together. In addition to Verborgen meesterwerken, the following themes are offered: Drugsriolen (Drug Sewers), Tussen de atomen (Between the Atoms), Hernieuwbare energie (Renewable Energy) and Eco-economie (Eco-economics). The Flemish singer and presenter Bart Peeters is the voice of the documentaries. He recorded all of the texts for Behind the Science.

Behind the Science is aired each Thursday at 8:30pm beginning 21 March.

Watch the trailer for the first documentary Hidden Masterpieces here:


(News item 1 March 2013)