The 'Adoration of the Mystic Lamb' known as the Ghent Altarpiece -- a masterpiece by the Van Eyck brothers which became known to a wide audience when George Clooney featured it in his 2014 film, 'The Monuments Men' -- is presented to the public after partial restoration. Annabel Reid reports.
It's one of the most important pieces of late medieval art and now, carefully restored to preserve it for the future. This altarpiece, the "Adoration of the Mystic Lamb" - was completed by the Van Eyck brothers in 1432. The painting stretches four and half metres wide and stands three and a half metres tall with 12 panels. (SOUNDBITE) Conservation Team Leader & Ghent University Researcher, Helene Dubois, saying (English): "When it (The "Adoration of the Mystic Lamb") was first painted in 1432, so almost 600 years ago, it was absolutely unique because it was so well-painted, seemed so realistic and finely done and at the same time so large that nothing like this had been seen in the low-countries at the time. The Van Eyck brothers who painted this surpasses everything else that had been done before so this was a true revolution." It's on display in this cathedral in Ghent, following the completion of the first stage of restoration - a project that's taken four years. Eight of the 12 panels are painted on both sides to enable the whole work to be opened and closed up. It's a 600 year old piece of art which has a very turbulent past.. (SOUNDBITE) Conservation Team Leader & Ghent University Researcher, Helene Dubois, saying (English): "It's the most stolen piece of art of the whole history of human race. Some of the panels were sold by the Church at some point. They were taken away, hidden during the (Protestant) Iconoclasm Period (1566), during the (16th Century) Religious Wars here in the low-countries. Panels were taken by the German army in the Second World War, hidden in a salt mine (in Austria) and found again by the American army," The artwork became known internationally when Hollywood actor and director George Clooney depicted the search for the altarpiece by an Allied commando in his 2014 film 'The Monuments Men'. The second phase of restoration is now underway, with the central panels scheduled to be finished in 2018. One piece of the painting will prove difficult to restore: a panel entitled the "Just Judges" which was one of two panels stolen in 1934. Adding to the extensive story that lies behind this masterpiece of European art..