The Ghent Altarpiece is a 15th-century polyptych, painted by Jan and Hubert van Eyck. It was commissioned for the Vijd Chapel in the church of St. John the Baptist in Ghent, Belgium, and remains on display at St Bavo’s Cathedral in Ghent to this day. The art piece consists of 12 panels that form a complex altarpiece with hidden religious symbols.
The central panel comprises an image of God in Majesty flanked by both Mary and Saint John the Baptist, while part of it depicts “Adam” and “Eve” standing naked and covered with strategically placed fig leaves, representing guilt following the original sin from Christianity’s Biblical story.
When closed, each wing shows four standing figures portraying holy men from either side. The left wings feature Saints John the Baptist, Peter, Justus as well as Philip while the right features four early Christian martyrs; Catherine of Alexandria set against a spiked wheel – which is where she was tortured until her death – Saints Cecilia holding an organ reflecting her patronage over music ranging all through to Valerianus who carries pincers (a symbol for his torture).
Jan van Eyck used extremely intricate details funded with subtle colors to create one impactful composition. All-in-all this artwork signifies European art transition from Middle Age to Renaissance art especially during their belief depicting Adam and Eve being true humanity deeming they should be represented as such before being redeemed by Christ when Catholicism began taking over other religions during medieval times since then till modern-day art went through phases mimicking this eccentricity pioneered centuries ago remains relevantly important up-to-date.