Thursday, 10 May 2012

Polyptych Party!

The Ghent Altarpiece, or the "Adoration of the Mystic Lamb," completed by Jan van Eyck in the early 15th century, is a fantastic work.  I highly recommend poking around at this wonderfully high resolution image of it, courtesy of The Secret of the Sacred Panel.  If nothing else, zooming in allows you to appreciate the plethora of amazing hats in the crowd scenes.  As usual, I'll just touch on a few details here.

Starting with the bottom half, we have this scene:

It's apparently the "adoration" part of the Adoration of the Mystic Lamb, and indeed there are throngs of people gathered around.  It's a pretty dramatic situation, with a remarkably calm lamb bleeding out into a cup, while angels dance around with anti-gravity censers, and a dove rains lasers over the ground.  You'd think all the people would either be distraught at the lamb's sacrifice, or joyful at the salvation taking place.  But really, most of them aren't even paying attention. 

They generally look bored or annoyed, if they are even looking at the action at all. I particularly like this mopey Druid hanging out with the pagans, who is facing the wrong way.

 Also Bishop What're-You-Looking-At.

In the other lower panels, the boredom and funny hats continue.

Then there is this ancient NBA star leading a crowd...

You may think it is just perspective making him look bigger, but if you look at the feet, he is 15 feet tall.  And he is leading an angry pirate...

...And this lady, tucked away in the back, who will stab you while you sleep.

Moving up to the top half, we have the choir of angels:

To be fair, this is what I would look like if I were expected to sing continuously for eternity, but I kind of thought that angels were supposed to be a bit more chipper about their roles.  Are these guys constipated?  Are they standing on one another's feet?  Was one of them caught talking angelic trash-talk about another?  Maybe they really wanted to be the angels in charge of smiting, instead.

And finally, there is John the Baptist:
There he is, sitting at God/Jesus' left hand.  His hand is raised, as if to poke God on the shoulder and say, "Hey...uh...I know that I was very ascetic in the world, and I greatly appreciate this fabulous jeweled cloak you've given me...but I don't supposed that now I'm in Your Kingdom I might get, like, a silk shirt?  Or maybe organic cotton?  Something other than coarse camel hair?  And maybe some shoes?"

No comments:

Post a Comment