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Before and After: Watch the Amazing Results of the Restored Ghent Altarpiece
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Series: Jan van Eyck
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Before and After: Watch the Amazing Results of the Restored Ghent Altarpiece

The central panel of The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb, also known as the Ghent Altarpiece, shines like never before. The second stage of the restoration of Van Eyck’s masterpiece has come to an end. The restoration stripped away the 16th-century overpainting to reveal an abundance of fine details.

On 1 February 2020 the largest Van Eyck exhibition ever will open at the Ghent Fine Arts Museum (MSK). The exhibition is devoted to the Flemish primitive par excellence, the world-famous medieval painter Jan Van Eyck. 250,000 visitors are expected in only three months.

The restoration of the Ghent Altarpiece by the Van Eyck brothers started at MSK in October 2012. The first stage was completed in October 2016, when the finished outer panels returned to their home, St Bavo’s Cathedral. Now the second phase of the restoration has come to an end: that of the five lower panels of the opened altarpiece, including the central panel featuring 'The Mystic Lamb'.

During the restoration scientists made an astonishing discovery: beneath the layers of yellowed and cloudy varnish, around 70% of the outer panels were obscured by 16th-century overpainting.

The restorers could strip away the overpainting. Most surprising of all was the lamb’s humanised face, which emerged beneath its more animal 16th-century appearance.

The restoration will continue into a last phase that tackles the upper sequence of interior panels, possibly beginning in 2021.

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