Restoration of the Van Eycks' Adoration of the Mystic Lamb started today in Ghent

2 October 2012

The Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage KIK commenced today the restoration work on the famous Ghent Alterpiece by Jan and Hubert Van Eyck 'the Adoration of the Mystic Lamb' in the Ghent Museum of Fine Arts MSK. The entire operation will take five years and is open to public.

The KIK was the only candidate to submit a tender to restore the 15th century masterwork by Jan and Hubert Van Eyck. This federal institution charged with the study and conservation of cultural heritage has been tasked to remove a layer of varnish from the panel which obscures the work and damages the paint underneath. In addition, they will also restore old retouches and retouch repainted areas where necessary, completing the work with a new layer of varnish.

The thorough restoration is being carried out under the supervision of Anne van Grevenstein-Kruse, Professor Emeritus of Conservation and Restoration at the University of Amsterdam, and will span some five years, with about three phases of one and a half years each. The Cathedral, the Museum of Fine Arts and the Caermersklooster are joining forces to tell the story of this masterpiece during its restoration.

The baptistery in Ghent's St Bavo Cathedral, where the masterpiece can be viewed, is too small for the restoration work, so the KIK installed a secured restoration studio in the Ghent Museum of Fine Arts MSK. Here the public can see how each panel is restored by four full-time art restorers. Two thirds of the work will remain in the Saint-Bavo's Cathedral and the panels that have been removed for restoration will be replaced with black-and-white replicas.

The total cost of the entire restoration work is estimated at 1.4 million euros. The Flemish departments of Culture and Heritage will pay 80% of this amount and the remainder will come from the Saint-Bavo's Cathedral church council.

The Caermersklooster is hosting a permanent exhibition on the painting techniques used for the Mystic Lamb, as well as its symbolism. The exhibition also includes a simulation of the Mystic Lamb with panels that open and close, as well as an information video showing the current stage in the restoration process.

Photo: © belga

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