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Eduardo Arroyo. The Mystic Lamb Thursday, July 5, 2012

Between 2008 and 2009 Eduardo Arroyo (born Madrid, 1937) worked on the project of creating a personal vision in black and white of the polyptych known as The Mystic Lamb or Ghent Altarpiece (ca.1432) by the Van Eyck brothers, Hubert and Jan. Housed in the cathedral of Saint Bavo in Ghent, it is considered one of the great icons of Western art. For this project, Arroyo drew his own personal interpretations of the twenty-one panels that make up the celebrated original, working “to the point of obsessiveness” in pencil on fibre paper and on the same scale as the originals. The outlines of the figures in his drawings are precise but this fidelity to the original contrasts with the artist’s interpretation of the original scenes, which could be described as a reflection on the contemporary world.

Eduardo Arroyo. The Mystic Lamb

From left to right: Miguel Zugaza, Director of the Museo del Prado, Eduardo Arroyo and José Manuel Matilla, Head of the Department of Prints and Drawings at the Museum and curator of the exhibition

Together with these twenty-one large-scale drawings, the exhibition has also aimed to recreate Arroyo’s studio as he worked on the project (which he refers to as “My Lamb”). It thus includes an additional thirty works comprising preparatory drawings and other material such as photocopies from books of the figures from The Mystic Lamb Altarpiece that acted as his starting point, detailed studies of them and colour sketches in which he analyses the iconography of each panel. The result is a sort of “work table” that explains the creative process behind Eduardo Arroyo’s particular “Mystic Lamb”.

This group of material is accompanied by three 3-dimensional works by Arroyo in the form of flies, which are a recurring motif in his work, “an talisman animal”, as he describes them. In fact, Arroyo decided not to recreate the central panel of The Mystic Lamb Altarpiece and instead transformed the figures in the middle of the panel into a “systematic tapestry, a banner emblazoned with twinned flies […] Mystic Lamb has my tapestry of flies arranged like Stuka planes that have landed after flying for hours. The aim is to show the un-showable […].”

With the aim of recreating the atmosphere of a chapel, the exhibition also includes a panel painting of The Fountain of Grace by the School of Van Eyck from the Museum’s collection. It provides another comparison, this time from the period of the original work given that it is another interpretation of The Mystic Lamb Altarpiece, albeit with certain differences such as a greater emphasis on the structure of the canopy and a different position of the Lamb at the feet of the Creator.

This project, curated by José Manuel Matilla, Head of the Department of Prints and Drawings at the Museo Nacional del Prado, constitutes a new approach to the Old Masters by one of the leading artists of the present day.

Interactive screen

This application makes it possible to compare The Mystic Lamb Altarpiece by Jan and Hubert van Eyck (ca. 1432; Ghent, cathedral of Saint Bavo) with the highly individual interpretation of it created by the Spanish artist Eduardo Arroyo in 2008-09. Opening with an iconographic analysis, this comparison also suggests starting points for a reflection on the evolution of key issues that are still relevant six centuries after the original work’s creation: the importance of religion, its relations with financial and political power, and the role of the artist in society, among others.

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