'From tree trunk to altarpiece' - temporary exhibition Ghent Altarpiece

Open 10 till 17h
(access until 16h30)
Closed each Monday
24, 25, 31/12 and 1/1


- children until 12
- holders of a 'Ghent Museumpas' or
   City card

2 euro everyone else (also groups)

combination ticket 12 euro (admission to the 3 locations Sint-Bavo Cathedral, Museum for Fine Arts (MSK), Caermersklooster)



Caermersklooster Provincial Cultural Centre
Vrouwebroersstraat 6 (Patershol)
9000 Ghent (Belgium)
tel. +32 (0)9 269 29 10

Guided tours available on request from

vzw Gandante
+32 (0)9 375 31 61

De Gentse Gidsen
+32 (0)9 233 07 72

+32 (0) 498 10 99 61

The changing exhibition 'From tree trunk to altarpiece' tells visitors about the dendrochronological analysis conducted on the panels. These tests enable us to establish when the trees were felled and whether several planks came from the same tree, by examining the growth rings in the wood. This interdisciplinary research project provides vital evidence surrounding the key question concerning “which of the Van Eyck brothers completed which part of the painting?"

Detailed X-ray images reveal the many different changes made to the polyptych. Over the course of history, the wooden panels and frames have been repeatedly dismantled, moved around, sawn through and had their shape changed. All of these alterations have left their mark.

At one stage, the side panels were actually sawn in half. This task must have taken a great deal of care!

The project ‘A Study of the structural condition of the Ghent Altarpiece’ researches the working methods used by the Van Eyck brothers and aims to establish what the panels originally looked like. Researchers are particularly keen to examine how the panels and paint layers were affected by the various alterations and restoration work, as well as fluctuations in temperature and humidity. The results of this study will allow us to devise the best possible structural treatment plan for the panels.

In the 15th century, Flemish painters regarded the painted or gilded frame as an integral part of the work of art. Only a few examples have survived, but various paintings by Jan van Eyck fortunately still have their original polychrome frames. You can watch the reconstruction of the frames in progress as part of the ongoing conservation and restoration project.

Finally, art historians have several different theories about the original configuration of the altarpiece when it was first installed in the Vijd chapel, which can be documented by means of evidence left in the architecture and by examining the actual panels and frames.

In other words, this exhibition shows you how this world-famous work of art was transformed from a tree trunk into the Ghent Altarpiece!


Due to the interest shown in the temporary exhibition From tree trunc to altarpiece, the Caermersklooster provincial cultural centre has taken the initiative of issuing a publication of the same name.

The catalogue is on sale for 10 Euros at the Caermersklooster reception desk.