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Conservation & security study for The Ghent Altarpiece

The Ghent Altarpiece (or the Adoration of the Mystic Lamb, Dutch: Het Lam Gods) is a very large and complex 15th-century Early Flemish polyptych altarpiece in St Bavo's Cathedral, attributed to the brothers Hubert and Jan van Eyck. It is considered a masterpiece of European art and one of the world's treasures.

The restoration of The Ghent Altarpiece started at Ghent’s Museum of Fine Arts in October 2012. The restoration is executed by the Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage in the very heart of the museum. After the restoration, the altarpiece returned to St Bavo's Cathedral.

The challenge was to meet conservation and security requirements and to create a controlled museum environment within the cathedral. How do you control humidity and temperature in a cathedral and at the same time, protect the altarpiece from direct sunlight and burglary?

To tackle this question, Daidalos Peutz, the independent consultancy agency hired to conduct the climate study, reached out to us to help set up an elaborate study to evaluate what type of solution is most appropriate.

We have investigated three possible climate control options:

- To create a closed & actively controlled & conditioned space and, within that, a showcase with passive climate control

- Closing of the chapel itself and conditioning the entire space

- Creating a display case with active climate control. (This is the least preferred option of the conservation specialist because of the risk involved)

When evaluating the alternatives we also have to take into consideration the access requirements. Historically, the altarpiece remained closed and the panels would only be opened up on religious holidays. Today, they need to enter the space twice a day.  At noon, they close the panels, to open them up again 1 hour later.  This ritual moment attracts a large number  of visitors.

They are currently analysing & evaluating the results and will decide on a solution before the end of  the year.

 

 

 

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