Lamb of (oh my) God: Disbelief at 'Alarmingly Humanoid' Restoration of Ghent Altarpiece

By Naaman Zhou
A detail of the restored original of the Adoration of the Mystic Lamb altarpiece (1432) by the brothers and Flemish artists Hubert van Eyck and Jan van Eyck at the Museum of Fine Arts Ghent (MSK) in Ghent. Photograph: Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP via Getty Images
A restoration of one of the world’s most famous paintings has been described as “a shock for everybody” after it revealed a depiction of a sheep with extremely human-like eyes. The Ghent Altarpiece, completed by Hubert and Jan van Eyck in 1432, is a 15th-century masterpiece in St Bavo’s Cathedral in Belgium, widely considered to be the first major artwork to use oil paint. For centuries, its central panel – titled Adoration of the Mystic Lamb – featured a demure sheep (the Lamb of God) being sacrificed on an altar as a representation of Jesus Christ. The sheep was painted over by a different artist in 1550, but a multi-million-dollar restoration has now revealed the original, startling face of the titular ovine. [More]

On the right side is the restored face as it was originally painted in 1432 and to the left is the face repainted in 1550