Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Aleteia
Thursday 23 September |
Saint of the Day: St. Pio of Pietrelcina
home iconArt & Culture
line break icon

Original, more “intense” Lamb of God is revealed in Ghent Altarpiece

GHENT ALTARPIECE,LAMB

Saint-Bavo’s Cathedral, www.lukasweb.be | Art in Flanders | photo Dominique Provost

Zelda Caldwell - published on 11/01/18

Restoration work removed layers of paint to uncover the van Eyck's true lamb.

Restorers working on the famous Ghent altarpiece, also known “The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb,” discovered that the lamb was painted over in the 16th century in what, it now appears, was a botched attempt at restoration.

The original lamb, painted by the Flemish brothers Hubert and Jan van Eyck in the 15th century, was discovered underneath layers of paint, and found to have a decidedly different character from its pretender.

While the more recently rendered lamb appeared to be ““an impassive and rather neutral figure,” according to the restorers, the original packs more of a punch.

The newly revealed lamb casts “an intense gaze and is characterized by a graphically defined snout and large, frontal eyes, drawing onlookers into the ultimate sacrifice scene,” said the restorers in a statement reported by Flanders Today.

The lamb is the centerpiece of the painting, which depicts a gathering of saints and sinners who have come to adore the Lamb of God.

GHENT ALTARPIECE
Domaine Public

Koenraad Jonckheere, professor of art at Ghent University, told Flanders Today that the 16th-century overpainting substituted a realistic animal for a figure that was meant to symbolize Jesus Christ.

“Their careful overpainting campaign subtly adapted the shapes to the taste of the time and to some extent neutralized the Van Eycks’ intense and humanized identification of the Lamb into an expressionless animal, seemingly unaffected by what was about to come,” said Jonckheere.

Restoration work on the Ghent Altarpiece has been underway since 2012, after a team of experts discovered that 40 percent of the 20-panel altarpiece had been overpainted, some parts as recently as the 19th century.

In the 1950s, restoration work revealed the original set of ears on the lamb. Out of fear that the painting would be damaged, restorers did not attempt to remove the second set of ears, leaving the lamb with four ears.

The restored panels on outer doors of the cabinet-like piece are on view at Ghent’s Sint-Baafs Cathedral. The inner panels are currently being restored and have been temporarily replaced by copies.

Tags:
Art
Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read Aleteia.org every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...




Top 10
1
ANMOL RODRIGUEZ
Domitille Farret d'Astiès
Attacked with acid as a baby, Anmol Rodriguez overcomes and inspi...
2
Our Lady of La Salette
Philip Kosloski
How Our Lady of La Salette can give us hope in darkness
3
OUR LADY
Philip Kosloski
An alternative Hail Mary to Our Lady of Sorrows
4
PRAY
Philip Kosloski
Pray this Psalm when you successfully recover from an illness
5
SLEEPING
Cecilia Pigg
7 Ways the saints can help you sleep better at night
6
RESURRECTION
Philip Kosloski
Your body is not a “shell” for your spirit
7
ORTHODOX COMMUNION
Philip Kosloski
Why do some Eastern Catholics use spoons for Holy Communion?
See More
Newsletter
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.