Eduardo Arroyo. The Mystic Lamb constitutes a reflection by Arroyo on the contemporary meaning of the polyptych in Ghent painted by the brothers Hubert and Jan van Eyck. The exhibition includes twenty-one drawings of the panels of The Mystic Lamb or Ghent Altarpiece, thirty examples of preparatory material again based on those panels, and three further works by Arroyo, displayed alongside The Fountain of Grace (1430), a painting by the School of Van Eyck in the Prado’s collection that is also based on The Ghent Altarpiece.
In Arroyo’s work, the figures in The Mystic Lamb Altarpiece in Ghent become characters from modern society. Thus Adam and Eve are dressed in contemporary fashion; the Virgin and Saint John are reading Joyce and Stendhal; around them the heavenly choirs are transformed into Golden Girls as “a tribute to everyone who puts music into our paintings”; Cain uses a revolver to kill Abel; the Flemish setting is shifted to the Puerta de Alcalá and the Plaza de Castilla in Madrid; the donors become Citizen Kane and his “wife”, Peggy Guggenheim, while behind the two of them (the richest people in the world, according to Arroyo), we see a dollar sign symbolising wealth and the Protestant mythology of money; between Kane and Peggy are the two Saint Johns, here transformed into Van Gogh and Oscar Wilde, “two victims of society”; while the judges and knights setting out to worship the Lamb in the lower part of the Van Eycks’ altarpiece are now dictators (Mobutu, Pinochet, Pot Pot, Franco, etc), and the hermits and pilgrims in the original work are particular emigrants or exiles whom Arroyo has often commemorated: Sigmund Freud, Albert Einstein and Walter Benjamin.
The most significant change between the original and Arroyo’s version is, however, the central lower panel as the Lamb, depicted by the Van Eycks as a symbol of salvation and fountain of life, is replaced by a textile with a pattern of numerous flies, an image inevitably associated with death. Thus the overall message of the work is altered, while it also includes one of the artist’s most characteristic motifs, namely the fly.