Recently, an ambitious research project called Lasting Support was conducted to determine and document the condition of a widely known Flemish work of art, The Ghent Alterpiece. Completed by Jan van Eyck in 1432, the altarpiece measures 11 ft. tall by 15 ft. wide and consists of 24 intricately painted and framed panels.
Through the use of digital macrophotography, Lasting Support was able to composite hundreds of highly detailed images of the piece to create a truly unique exploration of this masterpiece.
Macrophotography is essentially extreme close-up photography. By using special “macro” lenses, the subject of the photograph can be shot at a larger-than-life ratio. The resulting images reveal enhanced details, usually unseen by the naked eye, and allow us to view and magnify the subject with a new perspective and appreciation.
Image One: Macrophotography allows you to see every brush stroke, crack, and spec of dust in extraordinary clarity.
In addition to macrophotography, Lasting Support also employed the use of macro infrared photography, infrared reflectography, and x-radiography. From the structure of the panels, to the artist’s early sketches and edits made through several layers of paint, each technique exposes hidden depths and deepens the story of the piece.
Image Two: A sampling from the Ghent Alterpiece, showing Lasting Supports’ various techniques used to research the piece.
From Left to Right: Macrophotography, Infared Macrophotography, Infared Reflectography, X-radiography
The full results of the project were made available to the public by the group’s main sponsor, The Getty Foundation. You can explore billions of pixels worth of the altarpiece and more at the website, Closer to Van Eyck: Rediscovering the Ghent Alterpiece.
Closer to Van Eyck: Rediscovering the Ghent Alterpiece. 2012. Ron Spronk (Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada and
Redboud University, Nijmegen). 13 March 2012. <http://closertovaneyck.kikirpa.be/>.