Queen's University

Professor helps increase access to priceless Ghent Altarpiece

 
2012-02-24

A newly completed website project led by Queen’s University art history professor Ron Spronk allows art lovers the chance to view the Ghent Altarpiece – one of the most important works of art in the world – in microscopic detail.

“The images on the website will aid art historians studying the Ghent Altarpiece for many years to come,” said Dr. Spronk. “The site gives scholars access to research materials of a unique and unprecedented quality, both on and below the paint surface. This represents an invaluable archive for scholars, conservators, and art lovers worldwide.”

The 600-year-old painting composed of separate oak panels on display in Ghent, Belgium, was removed from its glass enclosure and temporarily dismantled for an urgent conservation treatment. Dr. Spronk and his international team determined a full restoration treatment was necessary, allowing them to complete a comprehensive examination of the masterpiece.

Each centimetre of the altarpiece was scrutinized and professionally photographed at extremely high resolution in both regular and infrared light. The photographs were then digitally “stitched” together to create highly detailed images, which – together with other technical documents such as cleaning tests, wX-radiographs, infrared reflectograms, and conservation reports – are now posted online at http://closertovaneyck.kikirpa.be.

Major funding for the conservation and documentation project comes from the Getty Foundation in Los Angeles.

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