Van Eyck masterpiece restored for new Louvre exhibition

Paintings by Flemish artist Jan Van Eyck have hung on the walls of the Louvre for more than 200 years, and his work needed attention from a skilled conservation team in Paris. His masterwork, The Madonna of Chancellor Rolin, has recently undergone an extensive restoration process and is now on display in the Louvre's new exhibition: A New Look at Van Eyck.

Until 17 June, visitors can view the painting following its first restoration work since 1800, when it arrived at the Louvre. After stripping away the layers of oxidised varnish that had darkened the paint, experts have restoried the work to its rich original colour palette.


"The Madonna of Chancellor Rolin illustrates the tensions between mediaeval tradition and revolutionary experimentation that pervaded Flemish art in the first third of the 15th century," the Louvre said in a press release.

Van Eyck (c. 1390-1441), an early innovator of Flemish Primitive art, was one of the driving forces behind the move away from the mediaeval style towards the Northern Renaissance. His works became famous at home and abroad, with many patrons from England, the Netherlands and France.

While Van Eyck is considered one of the most prolific painters of Europe, little is known about his life, and the Louvre exhibition aims to investigate the history behind this painting.

"For what purposes(s) did Van Eyck create this very unusual work for Nicolas Rolin?" the museum asks. "Why is the background landscape so miniaturised as to be almost invisible? How should we interpret the two small figures in the garden? What are the connections between this painting, the art of illumination and funerary bas-reliefs? Do we know how the artists of the 15th century interpreted the work?"

Lucca Madonna by Jan Van Eyck c 1437 © PUBLIC DOMAIN
Lucca Madonna by Jan Van Eyck c 1437 © PUBLIC DOMAIN

With more than 60 panels, manuscripts, drawings, bas-reliefs and precious metal artefacts, the museum aims to answer these questions through comparisons with other works by Van Eyck and his contemporaries.

Other Flemish Primitives on display include Rogier van der Weyden and Petrus Christus. Six works by Van Eyck will accompany The Madonna of Chancellor Rolin, including the Lucca Madonna, on loan from Frankfurt, which was not even loaned for an overview in Ghent in 2020.


#FlandersNewsService | The Madonna of Chancellor Rolin, Jan Van Eyck, c1435 © BRIDGEMAN

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