The restoration of the Mystic Lamb: an exceptional moment to study a work of art


Professor Emeritus of conservation and restoration at the University of Amsterdam

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The retable of the Mystic Lamb by the Van Eyck brothers (1432) is not only extraordinary for its beauty, but also for the eventfulness of its existence, for it survived the iconoclasm of 1566, exile in Paris (1794-1816) and Berlin (1816-1920), and the salt mines of Altaussee during the Second World War. The last major restoration was carried out from 1950-1951 by Paul Coremans, founder of the Royal Institute of Art Heritage in Brussels, and remains a shining example of collaboration between art historians, scientists and restorers. The research carried out in Saint Bavo's Cathedral in 2010-2011 was the first stage in the current restoration project being carried out at the Museum of Fine Arts in Ghent.

Head restorer of the Mystic Lamb at the Royal Institute of Art Heritage
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A large amount of research is being carried out to complement the conservation and restoration of the Van Eyck brothers’ Mystic Lamb, and this is therefore a wonderful moment to get to know this exceptional work of art.Treating the back of the work has enabled us to discover far more about the technical execution of the painting; not only details about the support but also information about the way the picture was created. Our approach is necessarily progressive, involving in-depth analysis, and cleaning the back of the wings and their frames, studying the pictorial layers, and using new techniques of examination and analysis, has enabled us to pinpoint large zones which have been entirely repainted in the past. The study and separation of the original pictorial layers gives us a far deeper understanding and more coherent vision of the work as a whole, helping us reveal the full splendour of the Van Eyck brothers’ work.

Languages: ENG / FR / NL

In partnership with: De Standaard/ La Libre Belgique