Column: A Thousand Words

The Ghent Altarpiece, Part II

Hubert & Jan van Eyck

by Mary Elizabeth Podles

In the last issue, we looked at the exterior of the Ghent Altarpiece; in this issue, we open the doors. Accepting the theory that the panels were originally housed in a far more elaborate frame, and could be opened in different ways on different occasions, we will begin by unfolding the top tier and leave the lower doors shut for now.

The exterior panels are rather subdued and austere. Here, instead, is a sumptuous burst of golden light and color. The upper tier consists of seven panels, each roughly six feet in height. Before proceeding further, it might be well to pause a moment in . . .

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Mary Elizabeth Podles is the retired curator of Renaissance and Baroque art at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. She and her husband Leon, a Touchstone senior editor, have six children and live in Baltimore, Maryland.

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