Research conducted in the context of the current conservation/restoration project of Jan van Eyck’s Ghent Altarpiece and in preparation of our recent exhibition ‘Van Eyck: an Optical Revolution’, has opened new avenues for further innovative arthistorical scholarship.
(1) It has been established now that Van Eyck was the first pictor doctus in the North, who was knowledgeable about antique texts, natural sciences (optics, alchemy) and theological debates. At the heart of the Van Eyck’s theoretical knowledge, which informed his artistic practice, lies the metaphysical interpretation of contemporary optical theory as a gateway to understanding God’s creation (‘Visio Dei’). This finding now raises the need for the meticulous reconstruction of the artist’s intellectual profile, based upon an indepth study of learning at the Burgundian court and in the urban elite and guild culture of which he made part.
(2) The discovery of large areas of overpaint during the current conservation/restoration project of the Ghent Altarpiece, made it clear that during the 16thC changed reception altered not only the original appearance of the polyptych, but also its meaning. We will investigate how this change was triggered and informed by shifting religious, political, theoretical and artistic paradigms.