Hubert and Jan van Eyck's The Ghent Altarpiece by Mary Elizabeth Podles

Column

A Thousand Words

Hubert & Jan van Eyck's The Ghent Altarpiece

The Ghent Altarpiece has been called the most coveted work in all Western art; since its dedication on May 6, 1432, one scholar has tallied thirteen crimes against it, including seven thefts. Early on, the altarpiece escaped the Protestant iconoclasm of the Reformation when it was hidden first in an attic and then in the town hall. During the Napoleonic Wars, it was plundered by the French. It was returned after the Battle of Waterloo, only to have i . . .