Now you can admire the Van Eyck’s Mystic Lamb in 100 billion pixels

Now you can admire the Van Eyck’s Mystic Lamb in 100 billion pixels
A close-up of the Holy Lamb, from the Closer to Van Eyck website (link in text)

The celebrated masterpiece known as The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb by the 15th century Flemish artist Jan Van Eyck can be seen in the Saint-Bavo cathedral in Ghent, and in the new year in their new visitor centre.

But for those who just want to admire the altarpiece in microscopic detail from the comfort of their own home, there’s now the website Closer to Van Eyck, which allows anyone to get closer than any museum guard would allow – all the way up to a pixel view of the 100 billion pixel computer rendition.

The altarpiece consists of 12 painted panels when closed, showing an Annunciation and portraits of patrons, and another 12 on the inside when opened, showing a variety of scenes including God, the Virgin and John the Baptist, angels, Adam and Eve and a wide scene depicting the Holy Lamb (representing the sacrifice of Christ) being worshipped by a host of knights, hermits, pilgrims and judges.

The panel showing the judges was stolen in 1934 and never recovered. It has been replaced by a version finished in 1951 by the artist Jef Van der Veken.

The altarpiece has been restored many times over the centuries, and had become almost hidden under successive layers of varnish.

In 2010, a thorough examination was carried out using the latest methods, with the support of the Getty Foundation. That revealed that a complete restoration would be required, which started in 2012 for an initial period of five years, carried out by the Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage in Brussels.

The exterior panels were returned to the cathedral in 2016, and work was started on the interior panels in 2017.

Each one of the panels has now, under the instruction of Professor Ron Spronk of Radboud University in Nijmegen in the Netherlands, been subjected to macrophotography, infrared reflectography and X-radiography, to produce a computer rendition of the entire masterpiece, made up of no fewer than 100 billion pixels – or a resolution about 200,000 times greater than the image you see above.

The images, Prof. Spronk said, cover everything “from the restoration reports to infrared images. The website is also very special, as people can decide for themselves how deeply they dive into the matter and really play with all the visual material, compare and contrast. The site can be used for scientific research or for education, but visitors can also simply marvel at the beautiful details.”

Alan Hope
The Brussels Times

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