Remarkable restoration of the "Adoration of the Mystic Lamb" by the Van Eyck brothers


The "Adoration of the Mystic Lamb" by the Van Eyck brothers is one of the most famous paintings in the world and has been undergoing major restoration work since 2012 to return it to its original glory. The paintings and frames of the outer panels of the polyptych have now been beautifully restored and returned to St Bavo's Cathedral in Ghent.

This important work, painted in 1432, is a source of great pride for the people of Ghent. The paintings and frames of the Adoration of the Mystic Lamb's outer panels have been transformed thanks to research and treatment carried out by restorers from the Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage (KIK-IRPA) since 2012; their restoration has revealed the exceptional quality of the works and allowed us to rediscover the art of the Van Eyck brothers that had been hidden beneath overpainting for centuries. It has not been possible to admire the exceptional pictorial quality of the back of the Adoration of the Mystic Lamb altarpiece for at least 400 years. Restoration work began in the 17th century, with varying degrees of care.

What we are seeing here is the rebirth of a work almost 600 years old; the revelations brought to light by this treatment are exceptional in terms of both iconography and aesthetics. The restoration has also revealed the Van Eyck brothers' exceptional technique, characterised by their observation skills and their mastery of the interaction between the light and the subjects portrayed, giving the illusion of a three-dimensional world on a flat surface. Finally, the authenticity of the inscription on the frames of the outer panels confirms the involvement of the two brothers.

The Restoration/Revelation - the Outer Panels of the Adoration of the Mystic Lamb exhibition, at the Caermersklooster in Ghent until 28 May 2017, explains and illustrates the unique way in which the panels have been treated.

Now that the renovated outer panels have left the workshop, KIK-IRPA will restore the lower part of the altarpiece. The restorers hope to complete their work before 2020 - Van Eyck year.

KIK-IRPA is the federal scientific institution responsible for the documentation, study and conservation-restoration of Belgium's cultural and artistic heritage. Art historians, photographers, chemists, archaeologists, engineers and conservers-restorers carry out cutting-edge interdisciplinary research into the materials and techniques used in our heritage and into conservation-restoration products and methods.