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The Ghent Altarpiece, Research Paper Example

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Research Paper

The Ghent Altarpiece, otherwise known as the Altarpiece of the Lamb of God, is a multi-panelled painting by the van Eyck brothers dating to the 15th century, found in Ghent in what is now Belgium. (Honour and Fleming, 432, 2005) The work is a piece of Christian art, featuring the figure of Christ the redeemer, alongside other figures from the Christian narrative, such as Mary and St. John the Baptist. (Honour and Fleming, 432, 2005) In essence, the work is an entire synopsis of Christian faith, from the angel Gabrial informing Mary that she will give birth to Christ to Christ redeeming the virtuous. Its place in a church in Ghent signifies its function as a piece of sacral art, emphasizing the entire Christian narrative and therefore in a sense framing the setting where Church practices and Christian rituals, such as the reading of the liturgy, take place.

Arguably, what is most distinctive about the work is how it is organized. Form, in other words, immediately captures the viewer’s eye with the carefully thought out structure of the piece. The positioning of Christ in the top center panel forms a foundational point in the work, after which the viewer then moves from panel to panel. Arranged in this manner, the painting almost takes a narrative form, as each panel can be looked at as an individual painting as well as part of the greater story.

At the same time, the use of color helps reflect the sacred theme of the piece. There is an almost somber use of color to the piece, which underscores the gravity of its theme. In so far as the piece itself is discussing the entirety of the Christian faith, there is an attempt to portray this narrative in a serious and dedicated manner. In this sense, the piece succeeds not only as an aesthetic object, with its brilliant uses of form and symmetry, but also as a religious object.

References

Honour, Hugh and Fleming, John. A World History of Art. New York: 2005.

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