The Catholic Church, Belgian authorities and international curators do not know how to respond to the discovery of restorers working to restore the face of the artwork known as the "Ghent Altarpiece." This composite canvas is located in the Catholic Cathedral of Saint Bavo in the Belgian city of Ghent and is considered one of the oldest oil paintings in Europe, if not in the world. Thanks to this, it has survived quite well since its creation in 1432. However, during the restoration it turned out that the artists made a serious provocation when creating the image of the sacrificial lamb in the lower part of the painting.
Restoration work on the "Ghent Altar" is carried out by a team from the Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage of Belgium, has already cost millions of euros and was initially considered controversial. On the one hand, almost all six-century canvases must be cleaned of layers of dust, dirt and grease. On the other hand, already at the stage of preparation, when analyzing X-ray images, it became obvious that the picture was deliberately redrawn. And the first to do this were the authors themselves - the brothers Hubert and Jan van Eyck. But why?
Retouched and original options
Preliminary analysis showed that up to 70% of the painting surface has traces of retouching. The restorers started with a few small fragments, successfully uncovering minor elements, such as buildings in the background. And when they were convinced of the reliability of the method they had chosen, they cleansed the sacrificial lamb, to which there were the most questions. From under the layer of old varnish, the huge, intent eyes of a man - or rather, Jesus himself - looked at them.
There is no doubt that these are not just sheep's eyes, but that recognizable technique for drawing the face of God, when the eyes have perfect symmetry, and the pupils are located strictly in the center. This creates a special effect - no matter what angle the viewer looks at the picture, it seems as if the drawn character is looking directly into his eyes. The technique was widely used in the Christian icon painting tradition to impress believers, and artists could automatically transfer it to the lamb. But then, apparently, they considered such an action inappropriate or even provocative, and therefore redrawn the lamb in a more neutral style. However, this is only one of the versions.