Hubert van Eyck Was Partially Responsible for Much of the Ghent Altarpiece

New research determined that Jan's brother handled parts of the landscape and the sky.

The 15th-century Ghent Altarpiece in Ghent, Belgium. DIRK WAEM/Belga/AFP via Getty Images

According to new research, a determination has been made that Hubert Van Eyck, the brother of Ghent Altarpiece creator Jan Van Eyck, is partially responsible for the construction of the painting and contributed to it more than had been previously understood. Specifically, scholars have discovered an underlying painting that resides under the final product that they’ve officially attributed to Hubert: apparently, the brother created the sky, parts of the landscape, the meadow and other broader features of the painting. Subsequently, it seems that Jan vann Eyck stepped in to add additional features like buildings.

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The research into the famous triptych was conducted by the Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage; the research explains that the discovery of the painting’s varied authorship “brings clarity to an old enigma and opens the door to a new chapter in the study of the Flemish Primitives—the search for other paintings by Hubert van Eyck.” Essentially, Hubert “could be the missing link between pre-Eyckian painting and the radically innovative Ars Nova of his younger brother Jan van Eyck.”

“We actually think that Hubert made the underdrawing, had already started working on it in paint, but that he had to stop the work at a certain point,” art historian Griet Steyaert told The Art Newspaper. “Jan then finished it off.” Last year, the Ghent Altarpiece also made the news due to an update to its central Mystic Lamb that had many viewers completely baffled. The restoration revealed that the lamb’s face had originally been conceived as a much more alien, humanoid and frankly disturbing creation; the face had subsequently been softened and made less strange over the years. When the original vision was revealed, memes abounded, but the most discerning among the internet prattle could see the merit: even stretching into the 21st century, the mythic Ghent Altarpiece still has the power to astound.

Hubert van Eyck Was Partially Responsible for Much of the Ghent Altarpiece