Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Rediscovering the Ghent Altarpiece

A stunning and highly complex painting composed of separate oak panels, The Mystic Lamb of 1432 by Hubert and Jan van Eyck, known as the Ghent Altarpiece, recently underwent much-needed emergency conservation within the Villa Chapel.

Each centimeter 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 allow for study of the painting at unprecedented microscopic levels. The website itself contains 100 billion pixels.

Thanks to a grant from the Getty Foundation, these high-definition digital images are now available on an interactive digital website, “Closer to Van Eyck: Rediscovering the Ghent Altarpiece” at http://closertovaneyck.kikirpa.be.

“This imaging project provides an amazing level of access to the wondrous painting of the Ghent Altarpiece,” said Deborah Marrow, director of the Getty Foundation. “It has been a privilege to work with such a distinguished team of international colleagues on this important project.”

The website features overall photographs of the polyptych in its opened and closed positions, and from there users can zoom closer into the details of individual panels of the altarpiece, down to a microscopic level. Scrolling and zooming features are guided by a thumbnail image to indicate the location and size of the detail on the altarpiece. Users are also able to open two windows simultaneously to compare any two images from the site, enabling viewers to interactively study the Ghent Altarpiece and the artists’ techniques in ways that have never before been possible.
Images courtesy Getty/AP wire services

More on Jan Van Eyck from the blog Lines and Colors: Lines and Colors

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