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Closer to van Eyck

The urgent conservation treatment of the Ghent Altarpiece in the Saint Bavo Cathedral in Ghent was finalised in October 2010. It provided a unique opportunity to thoroughly document the use of materials and painting techniques by the brothers Van Eyck, and to record the state of conservation of the masterpiece. At the initiative of The Getty Foundation the results were made available to specialists and to the public through the website Closer to van Eyck: Rediscovering the Ghent Altarpiece.

The website was launched in 2012, and had yet to receive major updates until now. The panels and frames of the closed Ghent Altarpiece were treated between 2012 and 2016 and the large-scale campaign now continues with the panels of the lower register of the open altarpiece. The conservation work led to the discovery that around 70% of the original paint layers of the Van Eycks had been hidden beneath overpaint for centuries, requiring removal. The altarpiece was painstakingly recorded at every step of the conservation process through state-of-the-art photographic and scientific documentation. The altarpiece can now be viewed online in visible light, infrared, infrared reflectograph, and X-radiograph, with sharper and higher resolution images than ever before. Visitors to the site can also adjust a timeline to view key moments in the conservation process, and have access to simultaneous viewing of images before, during, and after conservation. Users can zoom in even closer on details of the painting, exploring microscopic views of the work in 100 billion pixels.

Dr. Ron Spronk (professor of Art History at the Department of Art History and Art Conservation at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario and Radboud University in Nijmegen) initiated and coordinated the website. It was financed by The Getty Foundation and the Gieskes-Strijbis Fund. The Department of Cultural Heritage and the Agency for Immovable Heritage financed the photographic documentation. Closer to Van Eyck was realized in cooperation with the Cathedral of Saint Bavo, the Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage, Universum Digitalis, the Free University of Brussels (VUB), VUB/imec and Lukas - Art in Flanders.

Link: Closer to Van Eyck

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