An Altarpiece resurrected

Master of the Holy Blood, Scenes of the Apocalypse and the Annunciation (Before restoration), after ± 1513, Groeninge Museum Bruges.Master of the Holy Blood, Scenes of the Apocalypse and the Annunciation (Before restoration), after ± 1513, Groeninge Museum Bruges.Master of the Holy Blood, Scenes of the Apocalypse and the Annunciation (Before restoration), after ± 1513, Groeninge Museum Bruges.

These three fragments are all that remains of what must undoubtedly have been a triptych. Unfortunately there is no information available about the middle panel. We do
not know what it depicted, nor what happened to it.

Nor is anything known about the origins of the triptych as a whole, nor about its condition before 1904, when it was donated to the Groeninge Museum in Bruges. It had been converted into a cabinet! The marks of nails and hinges can still be seen on
these remaining parts.

The subject of the panels

Master of the Holy Blood, Scenes of the Apocalypse and the Annunciation (Before restoration), after ± 1513, Groeninge Museum Bruges.Master of the Holy Blood, Scenes of the Apocalypse and the Annunciation (Before restoration), after ± 1513, Groeninge Museum Bruges.Master of the Holy Blood, Scenes of the Apocalypse and the Annunciation (Before restoration), after ± 1513, Groeninge Museum Bruges.

The front of the two side panels depicts scenes from the Revelation of Saint John.

On the left, the saint is kneeling in front of the radiant Christ, whose right hand encircles seven
stars. His head is cloven by a sword. He is enthroned in the midst of seven golden candlesticks. On the right, Saint John is writing on the island of Patmos. An eagle is holding out an inkpot for him.

The rear of the panels, in grisaille, depicts the Annunciation. It is possible that the middle panel depicted another scene from the Revelation or something completely different.

Restoration

Restoring the AltarpieceRestoring the Altarpiece

Because of the complex history of the altarpiece and the fact that both the whole and the individual parts are incomplete, it was decided to take only minimal action. After all, filling in the gaps in the three parts would involve the restorer in dealing with more than 50% of the original, which would largely amount to interpretation.

So the intention of the action taken was conservation (the consolidation of the panel and the fixation of the paintwork) and presentation (filling in the nail-holes, minimal retouching and framing in accordance with the possible original dimensions of the triptych.

Below is a computer simulation of a possible hyper-restoration:

Master of the Holy Blood, Scenes of the Apocalypse and the Annunciation (fictive restoration), after ± 1513, Groeninge Museum Bruges.Master of the Holy Blood, Scenes of the Apocalypse and the Annunciation (fictive restoration), after ± 1513, Groeninge Museum Bruges.Master of the Holy Blood, Scenes of the Apocalypse and the Annunciation (fictive restoration), after ± 1513, Groeninge Museum Bruges.