The greatest masters from the 14th century to the present day have passed through the skilled hands of our painting experts, from the Van Eyck brothers, Pieter Bruegel, Lambert Lombard, and Peter Paul Rubens to Claude Monet or Constant Permeke. We study, conserve and restore their work with meticulous care.
Masters from the Southern Netherlands
The expertise of our conservator-restorers is world famous. They handle works by all significant artists ‒ Belgian and foreign, from all periods ‒ housed in Belgian collections. They specialise in works of art from the Southern Netherlands dating from the 14th to the 17th century.
We can often count on financial support from various authorities for this national heritage.
All the members of our team are highly specialised, committed people. To further refine our knowledge and techniques and to remain at the top of our field, we rely heavily on teamwork and an interdisciplinary approach. For scientific images, material-technical analyses or art-historical research, for example, we work closely with the other departments.
Who can contact us?
Our focus is on the treasures of our national heritage, housed in public collections and churches – mainly in Belgium, but sometimes abroad. Our expertise comes into play for high-quality paintings with great art-historical value or with added value for scientific research.
Preliminary study: interdisciplinary knowledge acquisition
An extensive interdisciplinary study precedes each treatment. As much information as possible is gathered about the original materials and techniques, historical modifications, previous restoration interventions, etc. The Painting Studio can rely on the contribution of the Scientific Imagery Unit, whose direct rays reveal what the naked eye cannot see. Many of our restorers are also trained art historians, skilled in the study of professional literature and comparative style research. They are happy to take advice from the Art Historical Research and Inventory Unit or call on their international network of art scientists and conservation specialists.
Conservation-restoration and thorough examination
Once the condition of the painting in all its dimensions has been described and visualised, the actual intervention begins according to the ethical code of the E.C.C.O. Our experts continue the Institute's long tradition of applying proven and scientifically based restoration techniques. These are constantly being refined, and their expertise is shared with trainees and conservation experts worldwide.
The treatment is a privileged moment for further research. The trained eye of the restorers is supported by scientific analyses, such as ma-XRF or the Painting Lab's study of cross sections of paint layers. This provides an in-depth insight into the creative process and any subsequent adjustments. Central points of attention are the longterm conservation of the painting and, of course, the aesthetics. The treatment restores the unity within the composition and renders the work of art readable again.
Sharing knowledge with specialists and enthusiasts
Not only are all the research and treatment steps thoroughly described in the conservation report, each restoration campaign provides a wealth of new information about the painting's context of origin, the technique, the use of materials or the artist's creative process. On more than one occasion, spectacular discoveries have been made, such as the old overpainting that covered a large part of the Ghent Altarpiece by the Van Eyck brothers, the actual date of origin of Bruegel's Dulle Griet or the original arrangement of Lambert Lombard's side panels for the Saint-Denis retable. These findings are published in specialist literature, presented in the press and media, and explained at colloquia and lectures for the general public.
The first step in any project is a thorough preliminary study. We learn more about the work, its state, and the context in which it was created. Only then do we start the restoration. This highly specialised work often bears spectacular results, as in the Ghent Altarpiece or the Dulle Griet case.