Monthly Archives: April 2014

A Year on from Brum…2013 graduate Sapna Patel tells us about her internships and new job!

A year ago, life seemed so different: I remember this time last year I was stressing (like every other final year student) about our upcoming exams that were to take place in 3 days’ time. As well as cramming every quote, date, and title I could possibly fit into my brain about Visual Representations of the Body, 16th Century Venice, and Interiors and Interiority, there was also the worry about what I would be doing work-wise after exams were finished and university was officially over. I’m pretty sure I wasn’t the only graduate panicking over this, and after attempting to secure an internship during my final year, I finally decided to let go and just focus on my exams which were only going to happen once. However that worry about what I was going to do career-wise just wouldn’t go away and luckily, whilst on a quick revision break on Facebook (typical!) I saw a post on our History of Art page about an opportunity to work at Sotheby’s Institute of Art. After reading up on the role, I realised the deadline wasn’t till the end of May so I made a mental note to go back to this once my exams were done.

With exams finally over, and after having too much fun at Refreshers, I went back to the application. I wasn’t really expecting to hear back or get through to an interview but surprisingly received an email whilst on holiday asking if I could attend an interview that week. I returned from my holiday early and went along feeling very hopeful and so was ecstatic when I was offered an internship with the Careers Department. My first day was the next week!

I commuted from Birmingham initially until I moved back home and started the long trek of a commute from Lincolnshire. Besides the 5.30am starts, and the returns at 8.30pm, my three months in the summer were extremely glamorous and I thoroughly loved working for a company that trusted me to get involved in as much as possible! Working in the beautiful surroundings of Bloomsbury, I was always on the go, going to different places or working with different departments. My line manager, Christina, was very supportive and encouraging to work with and from my first day I was already placing orders for all sorts for upcoming corporate art events without her permission! My first day also involved going to Somerset House to plan last minute things for a talk that was occurring that very evening.

Sapna Sotheby's

Entrance to Sotheby’s Institute of Art, Bedford Square, London

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I then soon found out that I would be representing Sotheby’s Institute at Masterpiece London 2013, a prestigious luxury arts fair set in the South Grounds of the Royal Hospital in Chelsea. Working for Masterpiece was certainly eventful. Running around London, I always had my hands full, from curating our stand, to networking with galleries and art dealers at the fair, and teaching and inspiring young school children about art and antiques, something that certainly tested my patience!

The Masterpiece Banner!

The Masterpiece Banner!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Networking with other galleries was my favourite aspect of working for Masterpiece. I loved seeing galleries dealing with the works of arts that I had specialised in during university and discovering new contemporary pieces that were unfamiliar to me. Having studied Books of Hours and illuminated manuscripts during my second year, I was delighted to see Les Enluminures at Masterpiece who displayed an array of manuscripts and miniatures from the Middle Ages and Renaissance. I was fortunate enough to handle a Book of Hours and was astonished at its excellent condition: the pigments and quality of the illuminated designs were still in such a good state.

Sapna MSS 2

Manuscripts…

Sapna MSS

…and more manuscripts!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Working as a Careers Intern, I assisted with graduate recruitment on a global basis, specialising in the arts and business market, a field of work I did not know much about initially. I was amazed to discover the numerous career paths a History of Art graduate could pursue from working in established galleries, and reputable auction houses, to working on a freelance basis and even working with finance and wealth management with a focus on art. It’s great to know all this is possible with a degree in History of Art – it just goes to show, as long you show your passion and dedication for a certain career, anything really is possible. Most recruiters will look at the skills you’ve acquired during your degree such as analysing texts and being able to put together a coherent argument through your essays. They’re also interested in initiative and innovative methods of researching that you employ for long pieces of work such as your dissertation.

I certainly learned a lot during my three-month internship, from being able to sit in the library reading and developing my knowledge about the History of Art, to attending networking events with employees from the major three auction houses (Sotheby’s, Christie’s and Bonham’s), and working with our office based in New York. I also learnt about parts of the world that are only just emerging in the contemporary art scene such as India (a country close to my own heart, ethnicity, religion and culture). I was really pleased to be able to network with Neha Jaiswal, a contemporary Indian art curator whose work combines traditional Indian art with a contemporary twist. And of course there were the gorgeous summery walks from Kings Cross Station and the buttery croissants I consumed every morning…! Through this placement, I was able to begin my dream of working in London and I can definitely say this internship gave me the right start I needed in building my career.

My daily walk to work...

My daily walk to work…

I was in fact offered the opportunity to extend my internship for another three months at Sotheby’s but I was fortunate enough to gain a six-week position as a Gallery Invigilator and Exhibition Assistant at Richard Nagy Ltd on Old Bond Street. This job really appealed to me as the works Richard deals with in his private gallery cover those areas of art I had specialised in at university, especially on Camilla’s second year module on Fin-de-Siècle Vienna. I owe so much to Camilla’s fantastic course and being able to draw on everything I learnt from the module in my interview with Richard and his fellow Gallery Director, Nina. Working in Mayfair was another great experience: walking through the Burlington Arcade every day and past all the big labels is every girl’s dream! The gallery itself is small and intimate and specialises in the works of Egon Schiele and Gustav Klimt. The gallery also handles German Expressionism: Die Bruecke, and in particular Die Neue Sachlichkeit, as well as more recent British artists of a related sensibility like Spencer, Bacon and Freud. In addition, Symbolist artists such as Redon, Ensor and Kubin, are also frequently available. The gallery also handles many artists in the modernist canon. The gallery hosts an annual exhibition, such as the 2013 one on Georg Grosz entitled ‘George Grosz. Berlin. Prostitutes, Politicians, Profiteers’ I was very excited to be working with works of art that I’d learnt and studied closely at university.

Grosz Illustrious

Georg Grosz, Illustrious Society (1927)

Grosz Inflation

Georg Grosz, Inflation (1928)

Grosz Barracks

Georg Grosz, In Front of the Barracks (1918)

My role at Richard Nagy Ltd was highly varied so as well as working on the gallery floor as an Invigilator, I was also involved with working in the gallery’s office updating and maintaining the company’s client database, handling client money, archiving works and preparing sales reports for any paintings that were to be exhibited and sold at upcoming art fairs. Whilst working at the gallery, I was fortunate enough to participate in the  PAD Art and Design Fair on Berkeley Square during London Art Week where the gallery had its own stand selling an array of its paintings. I was able to work at PAD both independently and with the directors in organising client appointments for those interested in making a sale.

Schiele 1

Drawing by Egon Schiele exhibited at PAD

Schiele 2

Drawing by Gustav Klimt exhibited at PAD

Lastly, I was responsible for selling exhibition catalogues in order to raise as much money possible for a charity the company strongly support, Global Witness, and was able to raise £7,070. I was genuinely sad to be leaving this post but am pleased to say I still keep in touch with the gallery and would highly recommend people visit it. The gallery has rare drawings and paintings by numerous artists and I found it really interesting to see their works in this setting.

PAD Art and Design Fair on Berkeley Square

PAD Art and Design Fair on Berkeley Square

Since leaving Richard Nagy Ltd, I have been busy working as a freelance artist and am excited to be appearing in a local art event and hopefully will be able to sell some of my own works! I am also currently training for Race for Life and will be running the 10K which I am both terrified and excited about!

I’m ending this blog post with a bit of a twist since I have just secured myself a place on a graduate scheme ago working in a field very different to the those I have just described. I am excited to be starting my post at Corporate Executive Board as a Graduate Associate working in Key Strategic Accounts. History of Art really does open up many doors! In fact, my interviewers both studied History and Modern History at university so I feel really reassured about starting this post even though I didn’t do a numerical degree. I look forward to building and shaping my career within CEB in Finance and Accounts, where my role will focus on working with internal stakeholders across the globe, working with the company’s grand client portfolio, including large pharmaceutical companies, and finalising contracts with them. Indeed it is the complete opposite to what most History of Art graduates are thought to pursue but it goes to show that the skills we learnt during our studies mean it really is possible to go into numerous areas with this valuable degree. For students who are unsure of what career field to go into, I’d advise you to look into all sorts of options and see what works out for you. I’d recommend applying for internships to help build your work experience and CV and not to be afraid of pursuing your instincts or changing tack: believe you can excel and any career opportunities out there are yours!

 

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Curating Art History Colloquium – Programme

UoB crest

 

There’s still time to buy tickets for this year’s Departmental Colloquium. Tickets can be purchased from the online shop. Students from the Department of Art History, Film and Visual Studies can confirm their attendance by emailing Faith Trend directly at: FCT357@bham.ac.uk.

The programme has now been finalised and is available below. With a truly international billing–our keynote is coming all the way from Australia–, besides speakers from closer to home, the colloquium promises to be a fascinating exploration into the worlds of museum curating and academic art history, and we hope to see lots of you there!

 

Curating Art History: Dialogues between museum professionals and academics

7th and 8th May 2014

 The Barber Institute of Fine Art, The University of Birmingham 

 

PROGRAMME

 

DAY 1 (7th May)

14:00 – 14:45 Registration and refreshments (Barber Institute Foyer)

14:45 – 15:00 Welcome and Introduction (Barber Lecture Theatre)

Erin Shakespeare (UoB); Nicola Kalinsky (The Barber Institute)

 

PANEL 1: ETHNOGRAPHY AND CURATING NATIVE ART (Barber Lecture Theatre)

Respondent: Nicola Kalinsky

15:00 – 15:50 KEYNOTE: The Hang and Art History

Catherine De Lorenzo (University of New South Wales, Australia)

15:50 – 16:10 Contemporary Native Perspectives: Dialogue and Exchange in Artistic Practices and Curatorial Methodologies

Helen Shaw (University of York)

16:10 – 16:30 t.b.c.

Bryony Onciul (University of Exeter)

16:30 – 17:00 Response and Questions

 

19:00 – 21:00 Conference dinner (venue to be confirmed)

 

DAY 2 (8th May)

9:30 – 10:00 Registration (second day attendees) (Barber Institute Foyer)

 

PANEL 2: KNOWLEDGE EXCHANGE AND DEVELOPMENT (Barber Lecture Theatre)

Respondent: Clare Mullet (UoB)

10:00 – 10:20 Art detective: creating collection knowledge through public engagement

Andy Ellis (Public Catalogue Foundation)

10:20 – 10:40 Cross-talking in Engage Journal 

Karen Raney (University of East London)

10:40 – 11:00 Response and Questions

 

11:00 – 11:30 Coffee break (Barber Institute Foyer)

 

PANEL 3: EXHIBITIONS THAT CHALLENGE CURATORIAL PRACTICE AND ART HISTORY (Barber Lecture Theatre)

Respondent: Richard Woodfield (Journal of Art Historiography; UoB)

11:30 – 11:50 Post-humanist Desire: Visualising Cyborgs and the Hybridised Body

Ming Turner (National Cheng Kung University, Taiwan)

11:50 – 12:10 [Re]Exhibiting Impermanent Art

Vera Carmo (University of Maia, ISMAI, Portugal)

12:10 – 12:30 Between a Rock Drill and a Hard Place: Researching and Curating Sir Jacob Epstein (1880-1959)

Elin Morgan (UoB; The New Art Gallery Walsall)

12:30 – 13:00 Response and Questions

 

13:00 – 14:30 Lunch (Barber Institute Foyer)

Time to look at the Faith and Fortune exhibition in preparation for the afternoon’s paper (Coin Gallery, Barber Institute)

 

14:30 – 15:00 Exhibiting coins as economic artefacts: Faith and Fortune: visualising the divine on Byzantine and early Islamic coinage (Barber Lecture Theatre)

Chairs: Jamie Edwards and Faith Trend (UoB)

Rebecca Darley (The Warburg Institute) and Daniel Reynolds (UoB)

 

15:00 – 16:00 Roundtable AHRC Iconoclasms Network (Barber Lecture Theatre)

A cross-disciplinary debate and Art Under Attack: Histories of British Iconoclasm at Tate Britain

Chair: Lauren Dudley (UoB)

Richard Clay, Henry Chapman, Leslie Brubaker (UoB); Stacy Boldrick (The Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh); Simon Cane (Birmingham Museums Trust)

16:00 Closing Remarks

Jutta Vinzent (UoB)

 

16:30 – 17:30 Drinks reception (Barber Institute Foyer)

 

Christ’s Passion in art from the Barber Institute

Ahead of the Easter weekend, here’s some of the key moments from the story of Christ’s Passion told using works of art from the collection of the Barber Institute.

Marinali Man of Sorrows

This sculpted marble relief shows the Man of Sorrows. It was made by Orazio Marinali (1643 – 1720), who was one of the leading sculptors in Vicenza near Venice in the 17th and early 18th centuries. The subject of the Man of Sorrows doesn’t actually derive from the New Testament descriptions of Christ’s arrest, suffering and crucifixion which constitute the Passion story proper. Instead, the subject comes from the Old Testament, chiefly Isaiah, who foretold of the coming of a sinless man who will atone the sins of mankind, writing (Ch.53): ‘He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with his stripes we are healed.’ Isaiah’s prophecy is thus considered a prefiguration (a prediction, of sorts) of Christ’s ministry and ultimate Passion. And out of Isaiah’s prophecy developed the Man of Sorrows iconography, which typically exhibits precisely the characteristics that we find here in Marinali’s relief: a half- or bust-length image of Christ that is closely cropped, showing him looking grief-stricken, sometimes crying (as in here) and wearing evidence of his suffering including the crown of thorns (as in here).

The Barber doesn’t own a representations of the the Last Supper (when Christ announced his upcoming death to his disciples, one of whom would betray him), or the moment when Christ was arrested following Judas’s betrayal. And so we move on to the subject of the Crowning with Thorns.

Crowning with Thorns

‘And platting a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand. And bowing the knee before him, they mocked him, saying: Hail, King of the Jews.’ (Matthew 27:29) Following Christ’s arrest and having been sentenced to death by Pilate, Christ was taken into a hall by Roman soldiers who draped him in a purple robe, placed a crown of thorns on his head and a reed in his right hand (in lieu of a scepter), and then bowed in mock veneration of Christ. This is precisely what’s going on in the above etching by Luigi Pellegrino Scaramuccia (1616-1680), which was made after Titian’s painting of the same subject that is now in the Louvre.

van Dyck Ecce Homo

Anthony van Dyck’s Ecce Homo was painted at some time between 1621 and ’27 for the noble Balbi family of Genoa. Here van Dyck has also deployed the Man of Sorrows iconography, but this time an episode from the New Testament accounts of Christ’s Passion is illustrated. According to John, following the crowning with thorns, Pilate led Christ out to show him to the people, remarking: ‘Behold the Man’, which in Latin is ‘Ecce Homo‘ (John 19:5). Following this humiliation, Christ was given his cross and processed to Golgotha to be crucified.

Mellan Sudarium

When Christ was carrying the cross on the road to his crucifixion, St. Veronica wiped Jesus’s face using a cloth, on to which there miraculously appeared an image of Christ’s face (hence Veronica’s attribute the sudarium, or “sweat-cloth”, which you often find Veronica holding in depictions of the Carrying of the Cross, or see below for Veronica holding her sudarium on the outside shutter of a triptych). It’s Veronica’s sudarium that Claude Mellan (1598 – 1688) represented in the above engraving. With the rise of print publishing in the 16th century, Veronica’s sudarium became a remarkably popular subject in the printed media, which could be put up in the home as relatively cheap, but compelling, aids to devotion, intended to remind the viewer of Christ’s suffering and death. Mellan’s engraving is an example of this. However, Mellan also pays homage to himself: ‘FORMATVS VNICVS VNA’, the inscription on the bottom of the sheet, translates as ‘the one formed in one’, which is a pun on the uniqueness of Christ, the uniqueness of Veronica’s miraculous image, and, in turn, Mellan’s virtuoso skills, since this entire engraving is made up of a single unbroken line.

Memling Crucifixion

Golgotha, “the place of the skull”, is where Christ was eventually crucified and is represented here in a small painting that is attributed to the circle of Hans Memling (c.1430-94). Behind Christ we see Jerusalem, to his right a man in black who is shown kneeling in prayer (this is actually a donor portrait, so a portrait of the person who commissioned the picture). On a hill in the background, meanwhile, we find a miniature representation of the Agony in the Garden, when, following the Last Supper, Christ took himself off with 3 disciples to a garden at Gethsemane where he prayed to God to be spared from suffering and during which an angel consoled Christ (although there is no angel here); this type of mashing-together of chronologically separate episodes into one picture is a phenomenon referred to as simultaneous representation. Inscribed on the little plaque on the top of the crucifix are the initials ‘I. N. R. I.’, which are the initials for Jesus’s Latin title that Pilate had put up on the cross: “Iesvs Nazarenvs Rex Ivdaeorvm.”

Circle of Rogier, Deposition

Attributed to a follower of Rogier van der Weyden (1399/1400 – 1464), this triptych (three adjoining panels; the image on the left shows the triptych open, the one on the right the triptych when it’s closed) represents on its inside middle panel the Descent from the Cross, when Christ’s dead body was lowered from the crucifix. On the interior wings, meanwhile, there are 2 further examples of Old Testament prefigurations of Christ’s death: on the left Adam and Eve are shown mourning their son Abel, who was the first human ever to die having been murdered by his jealous brother, Cain; on the right it’s Jacob and Rachel being shown their son Joseph’s bloody coat, which his envious siblings had doused in a goat’s blood to make believe that Joseph had been killed, whereas in reality they’d sold him off as a slave. On the outside shutters, two female saints are shown in semi-grisaille (monochrome grey painting, and semi- in this case because their flesh is flesh-coloured): on the left is Helena, who recovered the True Cross and, on the right, Veronica with the sudarium. Altogether, then, this triptych not only rehearses the story of Christ’s redemption of mankind, but has a special emphasis on notable women and female mourning, which inevitably leads to speculation that the triptych was commissioned by a (grieving?) woman (or an organisation of women – for a convent?).

Tomb

Finally, we return to the iconography of the Man of Sorrows in the above bronze relief, cast by an anonymous Italian artist at some point in the 16th century. The main scene shows Christ being held at his tomb by the Virgin and St. John the Evangelist as well as a few angels; emaciated, with his rib cage exposed, this image is a grisly reminder of Christ’s sacrifice. In the arched pediment at the top of the tabernacle, however, is a small image that hits home at the heart of the Easter story: the resurrected Christ, who rises from his tomb with his right hand raised in blessing, affirming for the viewer that because of Christ they also can hope for resurrection and salvation.

Jamie Edwards

Our 100th post!

We’re in a celebratory mood over at The Golovine HQ. This post marks our first major milestone – our 100th post to have been published.

The occasion presents the ideal opportunity for us, The Golovine team, to thank all of you who continue to support us by contributing material to the Blog and for reading it. But it also seems like the opportune moment to give ourselves a little pat on the back by casting an eye over the Stats, to see what we’ve achieved over the year and a bit since The Golovine was launched.

Back in December 2012, our global reach looked like this:
Golovine global reach December 2012

Back then, we had a pretty strong readership, unsurprisingly, in the UK. But we did also have a smattering of viewers in: France, the US, Belgium, Netherlands, Italy, Canada, Turkey, Taiwan, Spain, Hong Kong, Slovenia, Mexico, Switzerland, Australia, the Philippines, Iceland, Japan, Brazil, Bolivia, Germany, Hungary, India and China.

. . . pretty good . . .

As of today, though, it’s fair to say that our global reach has grown a fair bit! The map now looks like this (much less of it is blank!):

Golovine global reach April 2014

To date, a big chunk of our viewers are still domestic (note the blood orange colour of the UK on the map), but we have also had hundreds of hits from readers in the US, France, Belgium, Germany, Italy and Canada (the darker oranges).

Meanwhile, the total list of countries we’ve managed to infiltrate with all-things art historical looks like this:

Countries

… phew! We’re pretty chuffed with that.

That all translates to a grand total of 14,024 views to date since we launched The Golovine:

Viewer stats

The best month on record was November 2013, when we had 1,285 views. Our best day on record also occurred during that month, on Friday 22nd November. That day we’d published 2nd year undergraduate Maysie Chandler’s post about designing costumes for the University production of Spring Awakening. Maysie’s post attracted over 200 views that day alone - well done Maysie!

The top 10 most popular posts of all time are:

1) Hieronymus Cock: The Renaissance in Print

2) A mysterious manuscript in Liège: Dr. Elizabeth L’Estrange and 3rd year student Holly Wain on their recent research collaboration

3) Five Paintings, Ten Minutes Each = 300 Years of Art History!

4) Postgraduate student Hannah Squire discusses her experience volunteering for the National Trust

5) 35 days, 4 libraries, c.180 call slips, 6 museums, 3 lovely Fellows…. Yale, it was a blast!

6) Defining Faces: MA student Katie Wilson on curating one of the new exhibitions at the Barber

7) LAST CHANCE TO SEE! ‘The First Cut’ A Review of Manchester Art Gallery’s Exhibition by alumnus Natalya Paul

8) Review of ARTIST ROOMS: Damien Hirst at the New Art Gallery, Walsall

9) Second year student Maysie Chandler turns her hand to costume designing for an upcoming University production . . .

10) Elizabeth I, her People…and a Guinea Pig: MA graduate Oliver McCall on his recent Curatorial Internship at the National Portrait Gallery

The most popular search term for us on search engines such as Google is, predictably, “the Golovine”. In fact, our Blog is now the #1 hit on Google if you search for “Golovine”, and the picture of the blog team (below) is the first image that Google generates for the same search term:

Golovine-2

In short, we’ve come a long way since the Summer of 2012 when a couple of us sat down to have a chat about the idea of setting up a departmental Blog, and joked that we should call it “The Golovine” as a play on “we heard it on the (Golo)vine” and taking inspiration from the Barber’s Institute’s much-loved Portrait of Countess Golovine by Elisabeth Vigée-Lebrun. Turns out, though, that plenty of you out there have since heard lots from us on The Golovine . . . Here’s to the next 100 posts . . .

 

 

Where are van Eyck’s Just Judges?

Universally acclaimed as one of the masterpieces of European art of all time, the Adoration of the Mystic Lamb altarpiece–a.k.a. The Ghent Altarpiece–is in the news. Again.

Ghent Altarpiece, St. Bavo's Ghent

Ghent Altarpiece, St. Bavo’s Ghent

The Ghent Altarpiece was completed in 1432 by Jan van Eyck. Jan, who is dead famous, had inherited the project from his older and considerably less famous brother, Hubert, who was commissioned by Joost Vijdt to supply his family’s Chapel inside St. Bavo’s (then St. John’s) in Ghent with an altarpiece. Hubert died in 1426 leaving the project incomplete–exactly how much of the altarpiece had been realised by 1426 (i.e. just its design or had Hubert actually put brush to panel) has since generated reams of (mostly boring) art historical rumination. Vijdt, the patron, was a merchant, financier and warden (“kerkmeester”) of St. John’s, and we’re sure that it was for Joost that the van Eycks undertook their monumental, multi-panelled, triptych because its original frame bore an inscription saying so.

The altarpiece’s frame isn’t the only part of the triptych to have since perished, however. To say that the altarpiece has had a troubled history is to put it mildly. Parts have been lost in accidents—its predella (a row of short panels across the bottom of an altarpiece) was lost in a 16th-century fire—but other losses and movements have come about as a result of political and religious conflict.

Beeldenstorm

Frans Hogenberg, Iconoclasm in the Church of Our Lady Antwerp, 1566

Mercifully, the altarpiece was spared during the “iconoclastic fury” (“beeldenstorm”) that swept the Netherlands in 1566;  the altarpiece was moved out of its chapel and stowed away in the attic. (We get a sense of the very real danger posed to works of art during the 1566 “fury” in the above engraving by Frans Hogenberg, which shows coloured windows being smashed, statues being torn down and triptychs being bashed away at in Our Lady’s church in Antwerp.)

But over the course of the subsequent centuries, the van Eycks’ altarpiece hasn’t been so lucky. It has been the victim of over a dozen crimes and no less than 7 thefts! And it’s the thefts that have brought the altarpiece back into the limelight.

The altarpiece was nicked by the French after the Revolution and put up in the Louvre, only to be returned to Ghent in 1815 after the defeat at Waterloo. The wings, less Adam and Eve, were then pawned in 1815 by the Diocese of Ghent, which failed to redeem them. Consequently, they were then sold on to an English collector in 1816 and off they went to London. From there, they were re-sold to the King of Prussia, who had them packed up and sent off to Berlin’s Gemäldegalerie. Meanwhile, back at Ghent a fire damaged what was left of the altarpiece and Adam and Eve were sent to Brussels to be stored in a museum.

Things then get a whole lot worse in the 20th century.

Dismantled Ghent Altarpiece at Altaussee

Dismantled Ghent Altarpiece at Altaussee

During World War I German forces helped themselves to a couple more panels from the already fragmented Ghent Altarpiece (the wings were, we remember, already in Berlin’s Gemäldegalerie). At the close of the war, however, and following the 1919 Treaty of Versailles with its repatriation clauses, all the panels from the Ghent altarpiece then in Germany were returned to Ghent in 1920.

Things then go quiet for about a decade until 1934. In April that year the panel showing the Just Judges from the left wing was stolen–and we’ll come back to this in a bit.

Half a decade after the Just Judges vanished, on the outbreak of World War II, it was decided that the Ghent Altarpiece should go off to the Vatican for safe keeping–the Germans had got their hands on it before thought the Belgians! But this plan was thwarted when the Italians declared themselves as an Axis Power alongside Germany. By then, the altarpiece was already in France on its way to Italy, and so the altarpiece was held in a museum in Pau until the French, Belgian and German authorities could agree over what to do with it. Never one to miss an opportunity, though, Hitler had other ideas and decided to seize the altarpiece anyway. So off it went (some parts back!) to Germany, first to the Schloss Neuschwanstein and then, following raids there, to the Altaussee salt mines. The Americans finally recovered the painting for Belgium after the war—above is that remarkable photo of the dismantled panels being inspected at Altaussee—and it was triumphantly returned to Belgium in a ceremony overseen by the Belgian Royal Family. In Belgium, the altarpiece was displayed in the Palais Royal de Bruxelles for the worlds’ press, minus any French officials who weren’t invited because they’d “allowed” Hitler to seize it.

In light of all that(!), it’s hardly surprising that the altarpiece you see nowadays inside Vijdt’s little chapel in St. Bavo’s is a replica – that’s it below. (I happen to think that the replica’s a good thing to have though, not just for the safety of the original’s sake but also because you can have a go at moving the wings etc. of the replica, to see what the thing would have looked like in motion, opening and closing, which you never get to see happening with the “real” one.) The peripatetic actual Ghent Altarpiece is in now in the basement, displayed in an air-conditioned (bullet-proof?!) glass box.

Replica of the Ghent Altarpiece inside St. Bavo's

Replica of the Ghent Altarpiece inside St. Bavo’s

So all’s well that ends well? Well, not quite. The glistening, jewel-like behemoth that you now see dramatically lit in the darkened basement of St. Bavo’s isn’t exactly everything it first seems to be.

Of the many trials and tribulations that the van Eycks’ great work has endured throughout its history, the Just Judges panel that was stolen in 1934 is still out there, somewhere in the ether (picture below of the altarpiece with its missing bit, and alongside that an old photograph of that panel). What you now see when you look at the bottom tier of the Ghent Altarpiece’s interior left wing is a replica of the lost panel done in 1945 by Jef Van der Veken.

The theft of the Just Judges is a complete mystery.

On the night of 10th April when the panel went missing, a French note was affixed to the altarpiece saying ‘Taken from Germany by the Treaty of Versailles’, thus politicising the theft by referring to the panel’s repatriation to Ghent from Germany just a decade or so previously . This was followed-up with a ransom demand for 1million Belgian Francs, which went unheeded. Most astonishingly, following negotiations the ransomer did return–apparently as a sign of good will? Eh?–the grisaille St. John the Baptist, which was on the verso of the Judges panel and is what you see when the altarpiece is closed. Then in November 1934 the self-proclaimed thief Arsène Goedertier revealed on his deathbed to his lawyer that he ‘alone’ knew where the Just Judges is and vowed to take the secret with him to the grave. He also intriguingly said that the panel was hiding in a place where it would be impossible for him or anyone else to move without arousing public attention. So it’s somewhere prominent and public then? Goedertier died and the police concluded that he had indeed taken it.

Ghent Altarpiece without the Just Judges

Ghent Altarpiece closed. St. John is the second panel along from the left on the bottom tier

Ghent Altarpiece closed. St. John is the second panel along from the left on the bottom tier

And it’s for that reason that the Ghent Altarpiece is again in the news. Recently, there have been a couple of murmurs about the whereabouts of the Just Judges. At the beginning of this year, a retired police officer reckoned the Just Judges would be found buried under the soil in a cemetery near Brussels. Meanwhile, in 2008 somebody else tipped the Ghent police off that the panel could be found under some house in Ghent, which the authorities naturally proceeded to partially demolish but found absolutely nothing.

The latest addition to the saga comes from Paul De Rigger, who claims that he knows for certain who currently owns the panel. Apparently, it’s knocking around in the collection of an important and well-known Ghent family. De Rigger won’t out the family but is hoping that with pressure they’ll out themselves and that the Just Judges will finally be reunited with the altarpiece.

To be continued . . . !

Jamie Edwards

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