Altered in style. A socio-cultural study of the 1550 repaint campaign of the Ghent Altarpiece

01 October 2021 → 30 September 2024
Research Foundation - Flanders (FWO)
Research disciplines
  • Humanities
    • Cultural history
    • History of ideas
    • History of art
    • Conservation-restoration science not elsewhere classified
    • Painting and drawing
The Ghent Altarpiece style intentional alterations northern humanist culture decorum
Project description

The Ghent Altarpiece, a late-medieval painting by the Van Eyck brothers, was repainted in 1550. The current conservation treatment of the altarpiece indicates that extensive representational modifications were made, which literally changed the artwork’s original style. The aim of this project is to explain why these stylistic modifications took place in 1550 despite the religious artwork's cult status and the Van Eyck brothers' fame. This assessment necessitates a reconsideration of the Ghent Altarpiece’s reception history before and after 1550 based on both material and documentary evidence. The focus on the altarpiece’s reception history allows an intelligible pattern of historical change to emerge from within the fabric of social and cultural life, which, in turn, can reveal facts about the meaning and function of the artwork’s stylistic modifications.