A collection from Musée L
The Musée L in Louvain-la-Neuve houses a hundred or so antique glasses from the Fonds Mayence and the former Bible Museum of the KU Leuven. The collection of the Mayence Fund was donated by Fernand Mayence (1879-1959), professor of classical archaeology at UCL. He probably collected the pieces during his excavations in Syria.
An examination in August 2014 showed that the glass collection was in urgent need of conservation-restoration treatment. The museum decided to entrust this treatment to KIK. The experts selected about fifty pieces that were in relatively good condition. They underwent cleaning and surface consolidation. The rest of the collection was in a worse state and therefore required more extensive treatment. The KIK restores them, cleans them, consolidates the material and repairs broken specimens.
Mainly from the Near East
KIK's glass and ceramics workshop is also documenting and researching the origins of the glass collection with a view to publishing a catalogue. For this purpose, hundreds of photographs and several X-ray images have been taken. Analyses show that most of the glasses were blown. They seem to originate mainly in the Near East (Syria and Palestine). They can be dated between the second half of the 1st century BC and the 9th century AD.
Identifying all the pieces proved to be a huge challenge, but the KIK did select some unique glasses for further research. One example is a rare balsam bottle in colours reminiscent of emerald and ruby. The exceptional chemical characterisation allows the object to be dated to the Islamic period (9th century AD). The Glass Laboratory of the KIK is also analysing a mauve bottle in the shape of a pine cone.
Theft, disappearance, arrest, repatriation, return... Some works of art have quite eventful histories. Such is the case of this Crucifixion, a painting by an Antwerp Mannerist that was stolen from the Saint Waltrude Collegiate Church in Mons in 1980. In 2021, at the city's request, the work was subjected to a technical and art historical examination by our Imagery Unit and Dendrochronology Lab. It is currently being restored by Paul Duquesnoy at the Mons Artothèque.
The mystery of Hubert van Eyck and the Ghent Altarpiece solved ‒ Interdisciplinary study of the research data of the second restoration phase
In collaboration with the University of Antwerp, our interdisciplinary team conducted an in-depth study of the evidence gathered during the restoration of the lower register of the opened Ghent Altarpiece (2016-2019). They succeeded in uncovering one of the greatest mysteries in art history: the precise contribution of Jan Van Eyck and his illustrious older brother Hubert Van Eyck to the creation of the Ghent Altarpiece.
After a complex restoration, The Gallery of Cornelis van der Geest (1628) by Willem van Haecht (1593-1637) is again shining in the Rubens House. Come and see one of the highlights of the collection in the famous Antwerp museum!
How do you preserve items made of various materials, such as the Enclosed Gardens (Besloten Hofjes) in Mechelen? Within the ArtGarden project, an interdisciplinary research team determines the ideal preservation conditions for these kinds of historical mixed-media items. We make the results accessible to the broader heritage sector through an online tool.
In the PHySICAL project (Profound study of Hydrous and Solvent Interactions in Cleaning Asian Lacquer), RMAH-KMKG, UGent and the Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage searched for the most effective way to clean lacquered surfaces. The result? A chemically and physically tested cleaning protocol to restore the magnificent collection of Asian lacquer items in the Art & History Museum to their full glory.
After three years of research and restoration, Jan II Borman's Saint George Altarpiece (1493) hangs resplendent with beauty once again in the Museum of Art & History. The interdisciplinary study, carried out in collaboration with the Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage, has made unexpected discoveries and shed light on age-old mysteries. After almost two centuries, the beautifully carved statuettes have been returned to their original place in the monumental masterpiece, which has been restored. This project was made possible with the support of the King Baudouin Foundation (René and Karin Jonckheere Fund).
A self-portrait of Rubens can be admired in the Rubens House, where the Antwerp master's studio was once located. In 2017, the Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage was commissioned to study and conserve-restore the work. A real honour and a tremendous pleasure.
How close can you get to the creative genius of the Flemish master? The pioneering VERONA project has opened a whole new chapter in the study of the paintings of Jan van Eyck (c. 1390-1441). A permanent team of researchers and photographers from the Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage (KIK-IRPA) went on site to study and document all the paintings of Jan van Eyck housed in renowned museums in Belgium and abroad, in high resolution and according to a standardised protocol. This comprehensive visual material is now available online on the Closer to Van Eyck website.
The Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage houses an unpublished text by the historian Paul Rolland, which was based on valuable archive documents about the pioneers of Flemish painting: Robert Campin, Rogier Van der Weyden and Jacques Daret. Many of these archives were destroyed during the bombing of Tournai during World War II.
Thanks to the Closer to Van Eyck website, since 2012 millions of people have been zooming in on the staggeringly beautiful details of one of the world's most acclaimed works of art: the Ghent Altarpiece. In 2020, more than a quarter of a million interested people worldwide already took a look, and in the COVID period the number of visitors even increased by 800%. This shows the enormous potential of modern digital technology to make works of art from all eras widely accessible. The website was recently renewed and contains high resolution images of the restored paintings, new videos and educational material.
The painting Dull Gret by Pieter Bruegel the Elder is the centrepiece of the Museum Mayer van den Bergh in Antwerp. The restoration of this masterpiece was entrusted to the specialists of the Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage. Together with Bruegel expert Christina Currie, they made several spectacular discoveries.
RE-ORG helps museums to manage their depot collections correctly. The SHARE-ORG competition looks for creative ways to display the pieces to the public.
Within the CRUMBEL project (Cremations, Urns and Mobility - Ancient Population Dynamics in Belgium), researchers from UGent, ULB, VUB and the Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage (KIK-IRPA) have been studying the cremated bones found on Belgian burial sites dating from the Neolithic to the early Middle Ages. Their goal is to better understand our ancestors' way of life. To that end, they are mapping the migrations and movements of the populations that populated our regions at that time.
Panamarenko's Aero-Pedalo No. 9 was at risk of collapsing and needed urgent restoration. But the inner structure of the work was a real mystery to the restorers. The Imagery Unit of the Institute was therefore commissioned to produce X-rays of the parachutist.
Jehay Castle has a rich history. This exceptional heritage is currently being restored on behalf of the province of Liège. The KIK is making its contribution through an interdisciplinary study that will enable the various materials and parts of the castle to be accurately dated.
In the early 1990s, AWaP archaeologists made an exceptional discovery in the soil of Stavelot Abbey: a remarkable collection of Romanesque stained glass windows dating from the 12th century. Shortly afterwards, the Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage experts were commissioned to treat these very damaged glass fragments. They developed a very original process for this purpose.
Since 2019, Rubens' portico and garden pavilion have been restored to their former glory. The museum won the Europa Nostra Award for this conservation.
On the sacrament house of the Sint-Martinus church in Aalst, the KIK discovered painted images in semi-grisaille technique. A unique case in the art world
Liturgical heritage, generally considered as belonging to the decorative arts, is often neglected. Researchers from UCLouvain, KU Leuven and the Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage have developed new tools and methodologies to deepen our understanding of the religious, social and artistic values of these specific items.
CHRISTINA (Christian Iconography in the Inventory of Belgian Cultural Heritage) : Comprendre les images religieuses en contexte
Les tableaux d’autel, les monuments funéraires, les confessionnaux, les jubés, les vitraux ou encore les textiles de nos églises sont les supports d’une multitude d’images. Loin d’être isolées, celles-ci sont connectées au sein de l’édifice religieux, un espace pour lequel elles ont été spécialement créées. Comprendre ces images, c’est donc les étudier en tentant de restituer leur place au cœur du lieu et des rituels qui leur donnent sens. À travers le projet CHRISTINA, des chercheurs de l’UCLouvain et de l’IRPA œuvrent ensemble au développement d’une approche « relationnelle » du richissime patrimoine religieux des églises belges. L’objectif est de valoriser ces réseaux d’images dans la base de données en ligne BALaT.