Since 2012, a 2.2m euro (£1.8m; $2.4m) project to restore the artwork has been taking place at a museum in Belgium. Luke Goss on his new film and why 'Bros is back'. Jan and Hubert Van Eyck, 'Ghent Altarpiece,' 15th century. Weekly quiz: What went on with the Pope's social media? Since October 2012, Belgium’s Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage (KIK-IRPA) has led a transformative €2.2m altarpiece conservation project in full view of the public, within a specially constructed laboratory at Ghent’s Museum of Fine Arts. The 16th-century layer is believed to date from September 1550, when a Ghent chronicle records that two prominent painters “washed” and “kissed” the altarpiece, a phrase in local dialect that can mean “cleaning, improving, correcting”, Dubois says. “And nothing like this had ever been observed on early Netherlandish painting.” The discovery came as “a shock for everybody—for us, for the church, for all the scholars, for the international committee following this project”, she says. “You think you know Van Eyck because it’s such a part of the culture,” she says. Under the overpainting, the conservation team found dirty varnish and clumsy touch-ups applied directly to the wood panel. I have mixed feelings about this iconic creature turning into something that looks like it’s about to tell you that you left the fridge door open. A restoration of one of the world’s most famous paintings has been described as “a shock for everybody” after it revealed a depiction of a sheep with extremely human-like eyes. On 24 January, the panel will be returned to St Bavo's Cathedral, where it will be put on public display. These features are "eye-catching, if not alarmingly anthropomorphic", said the magazine, the official journal of the Smithsonian Institution. “But now you can really see [his work] and that will be a revelation for people.”. Housed at St Bavo's Cathedral in Ghent, Belgium, it is seen as the first major oil painting to gain global fame. .css-8h1dth-Link{font-family:ReithSans,Helvetica,Arial,freesans,sans-serif;font-weight:700;-webkit-text-decoration:none;text-decoration:none;color:#FFFFFF;}.css-8h1dth-Link:hover,.css-8h1dth-Link:focus{-webkit-text-decoration:underline;text-decoration:underline;}Read about our approach to external linking. On Fridays, we send our Editor’s picks of the top stories posted through the week. Belgium's Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage (RICH), which led the restoration, said the overpaint was removed incrementally over three years to reveal the original sheep. Marking the end of the project’s second phase, the five lower interior panels—including the central Adoration of the Mystic Lamb—will return to their home in St Bavo’s Cathedral on 24 January after a three-year treatment. The painter of the panel, Jan Van Eyck, is considered to be one of the most technical and talented artists of his generation. GHENT, Belgium — Layers and layers of paint have been virtually and physically removed from the 15th-century Ghent Altarpiece, a renowned work of … When can I get the COVID-19 vaccine? You can remove yourself from the list at any time by clicking the “unsubscribe" link in the newsletter. Restoration of Ghent Altarpiece reveals original painting Inner panels of the Ghent Altarpiece. Ok, new Ghent lamby is cute and all but the lamb in the Ghent Altarpiece is famous because it’s so omniscient and sort mean looking? Another artist had altered the Lamb of God, a symbol for Jesus depicted at the centre of the panel. The Ghent Altarpiece, completed by Hubert and Jan Van Eyck in 1432, has captivated the art world for centuries. Analysis confirmed the overpainting could be removed without damaging the original because an earlier layer of varnish “was acting as a buffer between the two”, Dubois says. Church wardens and the committee of experts gave their approval for the overpainting to be stripped away, a painstaking process using solvents and surgical scalpels. For centuries, its central panel – titled Adoration of the Mystic Lamb – featured a demure sheep (the Lamb of God) being sacrificed on an altar as a representation of Jesus Christ. In a statement to the BBC, the institute defended the restoration campaign, saying "several posts on social media reflect a misunderstanding of the results". The restoration was completed in December but images of the sheep’s original face went viral in January. The original lamb has a more “intense interaction with the onlookers”, Dubois says, adding that art historians and theologians will continue to research why the Van Eycks chose this “cartoonish” depiction—a striking departure from the painting’s precise naturalistic style. Find out how The Art Newspaper’s content platforms can help you reach an informed, influential body of collectors, cultural and creative professionals. It is also one of the most frequently stolen paintings of all time. X-ray fluorescence scans showed the underlying work was still “in very good condition”. As a subscriber, you will also get live reports from leading art fairs and events, such as the Venice Biennale, plus special offers from The Art Newspaper. The Ghent Altarpiece, completed by Hubert and Jan van Eyck in 1432, is a 15th-century masterpiece in St Bavo’s Cathedral in Belgium, widely considered to be the first major artwork to use oil paint. Curators from Belgium’s Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage used surgical scalpels and microscopes to remove old paint “centimetre by centimetre”, over three years, to reveal the original sheep.