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van Eyck, Jan (1390–1441)

  1. George Thomas Kurian

Published Online: 25 NOV 2011

DOI: 10.1002/9780470670606.wbecc1428

The Encyclopedia of Christian Civilization

How to Cite

Kurian, G. T. 2011. van Eyck, Jan (1390–1441). The Encyclopedia of Christian Civilization. .

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 25 NOV 2011


Dutch painter, famous for his Ghent Altar, also known as the Adoration of the Lamb, called by Durer a “stupendous painting.” The central scene is set in Paradise representing the Heavenly Jerusalem. The altarpiece, completed in 1482, consists of three parts: a large central area and two wings which close over it, each wing painted on both sides. In all there are 20 panels, of which four on the outside of the wings are again divided into an upper and lower section. Inside the altarpiece is again divided into two. The upper panel represents Christ enthroned as the King of Heaven with the crown of this world at his feet. He is flanked by Virgin Mary on his right as the Queen of Heaven with John the Baptist on his left wearing a robe over his animal skin clothing. This is the Perpetual Sabbath of the Saints and the Heavenly City described in the Book of Revelation. In the wings, the Angel musicians appear on the right and the Angel singers on the left, flanked by Adam and Eve. The large lower panel is actually three panels in which Pilgrims, Hermits, Knights of Christ, and Just Judges worship the Lamb of God. On the exterior of the wings, the upper part contains the Annunciation, with two prophets, Micah and Zechariah, and two sibyls, Erithrea and Cumae. Below are grisaille paintings of fictive statues of St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist. On the altar is the Lamb of God, blood spurting from his breast into a chalice with the words “Behold the Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world” and at the bottom the blood flows down toward the physical altar. Adoring the Lamb is a large crowd of more than 300 representing the elect and at the top of the panel is an aureole with a hovering dove representing the Holy Spirit. On the outside of the panel is the Annunciation in two small panels showing Adam and Eve with emblems of the Old Testament and the symbols of the Annunciation, as the water vessel and basin and the hanging towel. When open, the panel is 12 feet high by 18 feet wide


  • van Eyck, Jan (1390–1441);
  • dutch painter, famous for his ghent altar;
  • madonna in the church