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The Ghent Altarpiece

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Ghent altarpiece

Institution

Introduction

        The Ghent altarpiece or which most people refer to as the “Adoration of the mystic Lamb” is a great art piece of the 15th century. It is among the cultural works whose basis is on Netherlandish Renaissance.  According to Van der Snickt (2017), this painting was a creation of Hubert and Jan Van Eyck and is very significant in Europe. The inspiration to make the painting was from the book of Revelation, Hubert Van Eyck begun working on it in 1425. However due to his death in 1426, his brother Jan had to complete it, which he did by the year 1432. Ghent altarpiece is found above the altar of Saint Bavo Cathedral, Ghent, in Belgium, which was known as the church of Saint John in the 15th century. This particular painting is of great influence to many, Jan and Hubert also express the mystery of the Catholic religion through the painting.  

According to De Backer (2017), the whole concept was Hubert’s idea; he came up with the composition regardless of Jan receiving almost all the credit. The oil painting on wood is exceptional and consists of 12 panels that one can open or close. It has a height of 350 cm and a length of 461 cm that is 11 by 15 feet and comprises of three rows. Jan and Hubert took painting to a new level with a new type of realism and illustrating imagery. The use of oil to bring out detail is vivid thus challenging most artists; some people refer to them as the inventors of oil painting. The painting is also symmetrical and the artists bring out the dark and light shades in a detailed manner. The perspective is striking too since the figures are three-dimensional especially how the horses hair is painted. De Backer (2017) adds that the techniques used to make the painting are so impressive that artists such as Gerard David created drawings from it. Below is a pictorial of this art piece.

[pic 1]

 Figure 1: Source https://www.khanacademy.org

        Figure 1 is an image of the Ghent altarpiece retrieved from a social site. The piece has an amazing form of realism, which one can see from the animals and plants. There is a continuous sense of unity between the painting and reality. From the figure 1, one can see a field, that looks heavenly, and a mystic lamb on the altar that bleeds into a holy grail. Van der Snickt (2017) writes that the mystic lamb symbolizes Jesus Christ and the sacrifice He made. The life of Christ is clear from the painting since one of the panels represents the annunciation of His birth. The artists use a grisaille technique on the bottom level of the painting to portray the two statues of Saint John.

However, De Backer (2017) states that the main feature of the bottom level is the how the landscape is heavenly and comprises of a crowd of individuals on horses and others on foot moving to adore the mystic lamb. The other remarkable feature is how Adam and Eve project out of the painting they almost look life-sized they are also a representation of sin in the world. Van der Snickt (2017) writes that, John the Baptist and Virgin Mary, on the upper level of the painting appear to be intercessors who will play a part on the day of Judgement. The side panels show the different groups of saints. All the figures in the painting come out in a natural way with the music instruments and fabric depicting the creativity of human beings. Indeed the technicality used in coming up with the painting is breathtaking.

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