Jan van Eyck’s Ghent Altarpiece

Jan van Eyck was one of the great artists of the Northern Renaissance. Among his masterpieces is the Ghent Altarpiece, created in collaboration with his brother Hubert for the Saint Bavo Cathedral in Ghent, Belgium in 1432.

The altarpiece is made up of twenty-four paintings on hinged panels that can be opened or closed to display different scenes. The closed position displays an annunciation scene, based on the biblical story of an angel visiting Mary to announce that she will give birth to Christ.


Here is a detail of the announcing angel.


Opening the panels reveals images of the Virgin Mary, God, and John the Baptist, and a mystic scene of the adoration of the lamb, flanked by worshipers and images of Adam and Eve from the bibilical creation story.


Below are higher resolution detail images. Click and zoom for a closer look.











More art of the Northern Renaissance

~ by lolarusa on February 24, 2009.

13 Responses to “Jan van Eyck’s Ghent Altarpiece”

  1. Anybody else get the impression that the townspeople appear believing and devoted, while the popes look either shifty or bored?

  2. I grok renaissance art

  3. What a fantastic post. Very interesting.

  4. Thank you for this post! It has reminded me of my youth, when I visited Ghent and admired this Alteripiece. It is phantastic!

  5. This work has to be seen to be believed. It is huge,and no reproductions can do it justice. My understanding is Hubert was the author of the piece and that Jan came in after his death and finished it off.

  6. Hubert died a few months after the piece was begun, and it took seven years, so Jan did most if not all. Hubert’s participation may even be a fiction – the one piece of evidence is sketchy. If you like the Adoration, I’ll recommend a new book, Stealing The Mystic Lamb by Noah Charney, all about this painting’s amazing history (stolen 13 times, rescued from the Nazis thanks to a fortuitous toothache, etc.) Plus, it tells a little of the symbolism that is everywhere – I could hardly believe the reason the angels have parrot-colored wings, for instance.

  7. Oh, and the reason I was here …

    Thanks 1M for posting these images, some are the best I have found.

  8. Can someone point out the supposed self portrait of Jan? And the portrait of his brother? I am reading The Mystic Lamb….fascinating!

  9. “Can someone point out the supposed self portrait of Jan? And the portrait of his brother? I am reading The Mystic Lamb….fascinating!”

    I assume you mean ‘Stealing the Mystic Lamb’ — Good book, eh? I don’t remember where (or whether) Hubert the brother is depicted, but supposedly Jan himself is the only figure in the Ghent altarpiece (other than god) who is looking out at the viewer. He’s bearded, in a red hood, among the philosophers above. (Near the top of that group, about 1/3 over from the right – You may have to click two times successively on images to get the full-size closeups.)

  10. Thanks. The one with the snarly expression on his face? Not quite the image I had of him, especially after seeing the Man in a Red Turban, which is also supposedly a self portrait. But maybe the nose…..

  11. I think of it more as ‘defiant’ than snarly, but yeah, that’s the one. Quite a contrast with the adoration surrounding him!

  12. Such a magnificent work of art!!

  13. There is a self portrait of Jan that was discovered in 1978. Look at the center of second band of God’s tierra – it’s reflected in the large white pearl (just below the blue gem/pearl.) Zoom in – you will see the painter’s (Jan) outstretched arm reflected.

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