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News Release - Queen’s Art History and Art Conservation Professor coordinates website that allows millions to zoom in on an Early Netherlandish masterpiece from the comfort of their own home

Thursday, August 20, 2020

The Getty and the Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage (KIK-IRPA, Brussels, Belgium), in collaboration with the Gieskes Strijbis Fund in Amsterdam, are giving visitors even more ways to explore the Ghent altarpiece, one of the most celebrated works of art in the world. 

The latest version of the  website Closer to Van Eyck is coordinated and initiated by Ron Spronk, Art History Professor at Queen’s University  launches today. It  includes images of recently restored sections of the paintings as well as new videos and education materials. The site allows specialist scholars and the general public to study and compare images in any combination and in incredible detail.

The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb (1432) by Hubert and Jan van Eyck, also known as the Ghent Altarpiece, is a stunningly beautiful and highly complex polyptych that features biblical themes and figures. It is located at St. Bavo’s Cathedral in Ghent, Belgium. After centuries of accumulating dirt, yellowed varnishes, and extensive overpainting (as well as enduring a brief stint in storage in a salt mine during World War II), the artwork was in dire need of a full restoration.

Two-thirds of the work of art has already been treated by a team of highly skilled conservators from KIK-IRPA. The first phase of the restoration (on the exterior panels, visible when the altarpiece is closed) was completed in 2016. It reached a new milestone in December last year with the completion of the second phase, which included the restoration of the eponymous Adoration of the Lamb and the results of which are now available to view on the updated site. The conservation treatment has been captured in full through ultra-high resolution photographic and scientific documentation by KIK-IRPA’s imagery team and all these images can now be studied on Closer to Van Eyck.

Since 2010, several Getty Foundation grants awarded through its Panel Paintings Initiative have supported essential preliminary research for the restoration of the altarpiece and the initial development of Closer to Van Eyck.

 More than a quarter million people have taken advantage of the opportunity so far in 2020, and website visitorship has increased by 800% since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, underscoring the potential for modern digital technology to increase access to masterpieces from all eras and learn more about them.



“It is unique to offer such open, general access to a restoration project. In addition to a wealth of images, reports from the restorers can be downloaded, and visitors can decide for themselves how deep to dig in all these materials. The site offers a wonderful window on these spectacularly detailed paintings,but can also be used for scholarly research."   Ron Spronk, Professor, Department of Art History and Art Conservation, Queen's University



Closer to Van Eyck





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