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This programme is the 16th television programme of the Arts Foundation course A. 101. lt is part of the block dealing with the study of Art History, and in it Stephen Bayley employs some of the met...hods of art historical research to examine one of the great works of art of the Northern Renaissance, the Vijd altarpiece by Jan and Hubert van Eyck in the Cathedral at Ghent, Belgium. The majority of the programme is concerned with iconography - the study of the symbols and images in the content of the painting, which represents the whole Christian world adoring the Lamb, representing among other things Christ Himself and the concept of the Eucharist as sacrifice. Stephen Bayley helps us "read" the different figures, and from them we are able to build up the story of the picture. It is a story which is important not simply 'in the immediate context of any Christian worshipping in front of it, but, as Stephen Bayley, shows, more precise signifiance for the Vidj family, merchants of Ghent in the early fifteenth century, for their fellow citizens at the time, and indeed for the whole of late medieval Europe.
Metadata describing this Open University video programme
Module code and title: A101, An arts foundation course
Item code: A101; 16
First transmission date: 02-02-1978
Published: 1978
Rights Statement:
Restrictions on use:
Duration: 00:25:00
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Producer: Edward Hayward
Contributor: Stephen Bayley
Publisher: BBC Open University
Keyword(s): Art history; Ghent; Iconography
Footage description: The programme opens with stills of the Ghent Altarpiece and of St. Bavo's Cathedral in Ghent, which houses it. From the Studio Bayley briefly explains why the altarpiece is important and what the programme hopes to achieve. Using several scale models he describes different kinds of altarpiece and explains their function in a church. Bayley discusses the outer part of the polyptych, using an iconofraphical approach. First he considers the panels depicting the Annunciation, and compares them with the Annunciation in Boucleant Hours. He then examines the 'grisaille' figures and those of the work's donors. He also comments on the relation of the outer scenes to those inside the polyptych. Bayley now turns to the interior of the altarpiece. He examines the figures of Adam and Eve and relates them to the overall theme of the work. The two groups of angels are treated in similar fashion. The lower part of the altarpiece interior - representing the Kingdom of Heaven - is examined. Bayley indicates the principle figures and explains the religious symbols. He also comments on these panels as a vision of heaven. Baylcy examines the upper interior panels: those representing the highest authorities of heaven. He describes these figures in some detail and relates them to the rest of the altarpieces interior. Over shots of different parts of the altarpiece, Bayley considers the arrangement of all the panels. He argues that a vision of Hell is missing from it, over a still of another Hell. Over shots of the donor's foundation document Bayley explains why Vijd commissioned the work. He describes the social background of 15th century Flanders and considers the role of art in this society. Brief description of the wool trade over a still of Ghent's Wool Hall. Bayley briefly considers the problem of Hubert van Eyck. A Latin caption gives the verse which first mentioned Hubert. Bayley translates over. Bayley concludes with remarks on the art historical importance of the Ghent Altarpiece.
Master spool number: 6HT/72287
Production number: 00525_3254
Videofinder number: 2606
Available to public: no