The Ghent Altarpiece (1432)
by Hubert and Jan van EYCK

The most famous work of Jan van Eyck is a huge Ghent Altarpiece with many scenes in the city of Ghent. It is said to have been begun by Jan's elder brother Hubert, of whom little is known, and was completed by Jan in 1432. On the frame a quatrain is inscribed which states that the polyptych was begun by Pictor Hubertus Eyck, and finished by his brother Jan, at the request of Jodocus Vijd, deputy burgomaster of Ghent, warden of the church of St John, and of his wife, Elisabeth Borluut, who commissioned it. The verse was placed there when the altarpiece was installed on 6 May 1432.

The stylistic analysis reveals that in the painting the work of two different hands can be clearly discerned. The overall conception of the altarpiece is the work of Hubert, along with the execution of certain parts, such as the panels in the lower tier. Here, the manner is archaic, and reflects the continuing dominance of the international style that was practised by Broederlam. The composition is typically unoriginal: the landscape is still conceived as a distant background, with which the figures at the front have no organic relation, an effect that is reinforced by the bird's eye point of view.

The original photos of the Ghent Altarpiece were taken by Paul MR Maeyaert.

Preview Picture Data File Info Comment
The Ghent Altarpiece (wings open)
Oil on wood, 350 x 461 cm
Cathedral of St Bavo, Ghent

True Color
230 Kb

The Ghent Altarpiece (wings closed)
Oil on wood, 350 x 223 cm
Cathedral of St Bavo, Ghent

True Color
202 Kb

Summary of works by Jan van Eyck
Paintings until 1434 | Paintings from 1435
The Ghent Altarpiece (1432)
Open, upper section (1) | Open, upper section (2) | Open, lower section
closed, upper section | closed, lower section
Famous panels
Arnolfini marriage portrait | Madonna with Canon van der Paele