Green light for restoration Ghent Altarpiece

The Flemish Government gives their green light for the continuation of the thorough restoration of the Ghent Altarpiece by the Van Eyck brothers! This was announced on a press conference on 9 November by the commissioner Ludo Collin, president of the churchwardens of St Bavo’s Cathedral.

In a first phase, between 2012 and 2016, the panels and frames of the closed altarpiece were restored. This implied the complete removal of the overpaint covering 70% of the paint surface, revealing the real Van Eyck after more than four centuries. The result, which can be admired every noon between 12 and 13h at St Bavo’s Cathedral, or online on http://closertovaneyck.kikirpa.be/, is breathtaking!

The subsequent study by the restoration team of the KIK-IRPA of the panels of the opened altarpiece had shown that extensive overpaint was present here as well, and that the underlying original paint layer by Van Eyck was in good condition. The Flemish Government now gives their green light for a thorough restoration of phases 2 and 3, including the removal of all overpaint.

The remaining funds of the initial grant will be used to execute the phase 2 restoration. Additional funding of 150 159,34 Euro will still be needed. The Baillet Latour Fund is committed to bearing 20% of these additional costs. For the Flemish Government, this represents an additional cost of 120.127,47 Euro. Geert Bourgeois, Flemish Minister-President in charge of Immovable Heritage, and Flemish Minister of Culture Sven Gatz now provided their assent:  40% of the balance to be funded by the Agency for Immovable Heritage and 40% to be funded  by the Department of Cultural Heritage. As for the later phase 3 restoration (the upper register of the interior panels), additional funds will be sought and a new grant application will have to be submitted.

Phase 2, the restoration of the lower register of the interior panels, including the central panel with the Adoration of the Mystic Lamb, will be completed by the end of 2019 and the panels will be on show at the new visitors’ centre at St Bavo’s in the Van Eyck year 2020. Phase 3, the restoration of the upper register of the interior panels, will commence in 2021.

The KIK-IRPA, the commissioners and all the partners are very pleased with this news, which will lead to the rediscovery of the real Van Eyck on the complete Ghent Altarpiece.

For images of the restored closed altarpiece, and much more, visit http://closertovaneyck.kikirpa.be