Installation view: Christ Nailed to the Cross triptych / Gerard David

Installation view: Christ Nailed to the Cross triptych, 1480–85, Gerard David. Oil on panel. The National Gallery, London, Layard Bequest, 1916 (center panel); Pilate’s Dispute with the High Priest (left wing) and The Holy Women and Saint John (right wing), Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten Antwerpen

The long-separated components of a remarkable triptych (about 1480–85) from the early career of the Netherlandish painter Gerard David have been reassembled following 18 months of technical study and conservation treatment of the wings at the Getty. The side panels, from the Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten in Antwerp, have been reunited with the central scene, Christ Nailed to the Cross, generously lent by the National Gallery in London, and are now displayed together for the first time since 1927.

Conservators at the Getty Museum removed discolored varnish and old retouching that obscured David’s detailed and refined compositions and rich, sophisticated palette. An interdisciplinary team of curators, conservators, and scientists from the Getty, the Koninklijk Museum, and the National Gallery examined the panels using techniques such as infrared reflectography, X-radiography, and macro-XRF imaging. Together, technical and visual analysis confirms the longstanding theory that the three panels, related in style, composition, and iconography, are indeed from the same altarpiece. Now aligned, the three paintings form a continuous landscape setting for a multi-episode scene of great drama and emotional intensity.

A study session planned for late spring will enable scholars to further discuss and analyze the reassembled panels. Findings from the project, including technical analysis in process now, will be published after the close of the exhibition.

Gerard David: An Early Netherlandish Altarpiece Reassembled is on view through June 18 at the Getty Center.

A comprehensive text on Gerard David by the leading scholar on the artist, Metropolitan Museum of Art curator Maryan Ainsworth, is available online through the Getty Research Portal.

This post is part of the series Getty Hub, spotlighting the real people researching and conserving visual arts and cultural heritage at the Getty. Follow us on Twitter @GettyHub.
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