Restoration Ghent Altarpiece

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On Tuesday, 2 October, it's a go, and the restoration and conservation campaign of the Ghent Altarpiece, the masterpiece of the brothers Van Eyck from 1432, begins. The working process will span five years and is divided into three phases, whereby one-third of the panels will always be transplanted to the restoration studio in the Museum of Fine Arts in Ghent (MSK). Two-thirds of the altarpiece will remain in Saint Bavo Cathedral. The restoration and conservation campaign is lead by the Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage (KIK).

The work in progress in the MSK can be followed from behind a glass wall in the restoration studio. For interested persons, information on critical interpretations and rotating thematic exhibitions can be obtained in the Provincial Cultural Centre Caemersklooster. In the first rotating exhibition, the possibilities for a new mounting for the restored multi-paneled work will be investigated.

Phased program

The first panels will in the meanwhile be transported from the Saint Bavo Cathedral to the Museum of Fine Arts. The restoration will be done in phases. Work will begin with the exterior panels, amongst which are the Annunciation and the commissioning patrons Joos Vijd and Elisabeth Borluut. The heavily yellowed varnish layer will be dealt with and the adherency of the pictorial layer will be investigated.


Phase 1: September 2012-October 2014

Exterior, side panels, nrs. XIII to XX, inclusive

Panel XIII: Archangel Gabriel and the prophet Zachariah
Panel XIV: City view and the Sybil of Erithrea/verso= Panel I: Adam and the Offering of Cain and Abel
Panel XV: Interior and the Sybil of Cumae/ verso=Panel VII: Eve and Cain's Murder of Abel
Panel XVI: The Virgin of the Annunciation and the prophet Michah
Panel XVII: Joos Vijd
Panel XVIII: John the Baptist in grisaille
Panel XIX: John the Evangelist in grisaille
Panel XX: Elisabeth Borluut

Phase 2: October 2014-April 2016

Interior, upper row of panels, nrs. I to VII, inclusive

Panel I: Adam and the Offering of Cain and Abel/ verso= City view and the Sybil of Erithrea
Panel II: The singing Angels
Panel III: Enthroned Holy Virgin
Panel IV: Enthroned Godhead
Panel V: Enthroned John the Baptist
Panel VI: The musician Angels
Panel VII: Eve and Cain's Murder of Abel/ verso= Panel XV: Interior and the Sybil of Cumae

Phase 3: April 2016-October 2017

Interior, lower row of panels, nrs. IX to XII, inclusive

Panel VIII: The Righteous Judges (Jef Van der Veken, 1939-1951)
Panel IX: The Knights of Christ
Panel X: The Adoration of the Lamb
Panel XI: The Hermits
Panel XII: The Pilgrims


The team of conservators and restorers work together with an advisory committee and with a number of international experts. The University of Ghent is also involved as a partner to the restoration, research and public affairs.

The participating institutions, organisations and partners:

• The Province of East Flanders has taken up the public affairs role via its Provincial Cultural Centre Caemersklooster (amongst others) in the Patershol neighborhood of Ghent.
• The City of Ghent provides for the location of the conservation and restoration campaign in the Museum of Fine Arts (MSK).
• The Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage (KIK) provides the execution of the art handling. The team of conservators and restorers works herewith an advisory committee and with a number of international work groups dealing with various aspects of the handling, such as those regarding the painting layer, the panels and the canvases, climate and art-historical context.
• The church's wardens are the commissioners who manage the Ghent Altarpiece and sit on the advisory committee, along with experts and representatives of the various involved policy levels.
• The University of Ghent offers scientific guidance for the restoration and public affairs.
• The Inbev-Baillet Latour foundation sponsors 20% of the restoration costs.
• The Flemish Government, more specifically with the Ministers Geert Bourgeois (Cultural Heritage) and Joke Schauvliege (Culture), is financing 80% of the restoration works.

More info: MSK



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