Published on

25,000 km, 6 years of research, 1 exhibition

The story behind Facing Van Eyck

Facing Van Eyck. The Miracle of Detail shows you the works of Jan van Eyck as you have never seen them before. Thanks to digital techniques and new scientific research by the Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage (KIK-IRPA), you can zoom in on details you can barely see with the naked eye. The exhibition is the result of years of research by the KIK-IRPA team.

Six years of research

In the exhibition, projections make it possible to get even closer to the microscopic details of the entire oeuvre of Jan van Eyck. In the past six years, a permanent team of scientists and top photographers have travelled a total of 25,000 kilometres to study and document the paintings of Jan van Eyck and his surroundings in detail. The project was named VERONA: 'Van Eyck Research in OpeN Access'. It brings us a whole step closer to the original painting technique of Van Eyck and that of his pupils and followers.

Jan van Eyck, Portrait of Margareta van Eyck, 1439. X-radiography and macrophotography © KIK-IRPA

Technique is everything

The techniques of today provide insight into the techniques of the past, those of the master. Van Eyck probably never imagined that scientists today would, for example, measure the annual rings of his panels in order to calculate the tree's felling date. X-rays reveal the structure of the panel, the construction, the number of planks and the dowels that hold the planks in place. The radiography also reveals the painting technique and the use of metal pigments, such as lead white and lead-tin yellow.

Jan van Eyck, Virgin of Chancellor Rolin (detail), ca. 1435. Infrared reflectography and macrophotography © KIK-IRPA

The meticulous preparation of his works can be discovered under infrared light. Beneath the paint, we see the drawing which Van Eyck applied to the ground layer with a fine brush. Particularly for the position of the hands, Van Eyck  sometimes dares to deviate from the initial plan and searches for a better pose while painting. It sometimes happens that he draws motifs in detail but ultimately does not carry them through to paint, such as the purse of chancellor Rolin or the decoration on St. George's armour.


Make your own choices

Now that the KIK and Bozar have ingeniously brought together the rich visual material of the twenty works from Van Eyck's oeuvre in the exhibition Facing Van Eyck, you can virtually wander around in the microcosm of his entire oeuvre. The interactive projections, developed by the company Hovertone, ensure that you can choose which details you discover. In a few steps – literally – you navigate from one detail to the next.

Do you want to get even closer to Van Eyck? Then you can continue to discover his oeuvre in the finest detail online, because thanks to a partnership with Closer to Van Eyck, all the visual material has been made available in open access.