As the author of a book on The Ghent Altarpiece (Het Lam Gods, Luitingh 2010), I am grateful for the assistance and advice of local experts, in this case specialists in Flanders. When my book came out, several scholars met with me and were extremely kind in pointing out a few historical facts that I included in my book that clashed with their understanding. I checked the items they mentioned and found something surprising, and perhaps a bit disconcerting: according to the history books, we were both right.
That is to say, the largely English-language sources I used for research said one thing, while the Flemish sources said another. For example, Anglophone books and articles described a theft of the wing panels of the altarpiece, orchestrated by Vicar Le Surre in 1816, while the bishop of Ghent was away—he sold them to Brussels art dealer, CJ Nieuwenhuys. But the Dutch sources, which I had not consulted to any great extent, since Dutch is not among the languages I read, told a different story: that the cathedral fabric committee met and officially voted to deaccession the wing panels, since the central panels were in Paris, having been looted by Napoleonic troops. This was a questionable move, but not a theft.
all ”clickbait” touches me
am I the only one who hates princess madeleine’s kids?
Brush off the ash from the lips
Can someone give me peace in my soul????
Damn I should get interested in science like space n nature. Anyone know a good documentary about this?
Everyone who wants to shorten my poems are fascists
Everything should be punk
God how you enjoyed crying as a kid. And your mom said ”sorry” & tried to comfort but you kept crying because it was so nice being powerful
how would I do without twitter? like the sun without the moon. would be fine that is
I am Zlatan
I’ve forgotten you all because that’s the way I am. living in the present
if I happen to die vry soon I want you to know that I loved you all, boys & girls, adults & kids, black & white, I liked everyone equally
I met an auschwitz survivor yesterday. he said that I looked like the woman in the
tv series bron
I want someone to favorite my tweets. now.
I want to tattoo something from the sea
It’s twitter time. It’s that time of day
just cooked some fucking meal that some fucking farmer in the country could’ve cooked
Life feels like a nightmare
Looking down at my phone
lying at the cemetery while writing, it feels symbolic
Now I’m going to estimate how many ppl that are in love with me, I think
it might be ten ppl. Don’t know if it’s an over- or underestimate
One of the most chillingly cheesy things I know: sayin that someone is your grandpa though he isn’t, just bc it’s an old man that you know
Poets are like models but within text
Something happened a couple of years ago
The title of my autobiography:
I’m half dog half wolf
The train has been standing still in the woods 4ever…always scared it’s war when that happens.
”The train is standing still due to war”
This tweet is sponsored by my brain
Trying to come up with stuff to tweet
that doesn’t infringe on my integrity
Ultrasound, that’s child pornography to me
watching a documentary about metallica,
what are you supposed to bring to the beach? anyone know?
what if a book was published containing everything that has been written and then deleted. I would like to read that book.
What if bus driver was to be the new high-status profession
what if you have misunderstood a lot of people?
When I get home I wanna watch a documentary
when I saw a guy today it felt like I had dated him in my previous life
why aren’t beds designed more like hospital beds? height adjustable with one of those tables attached to it
why do people hate on those animal click links? they’re usually very cute/entertaining/touching!!!
wonder how it feels to kill someone.
Wonder if God sent all people to earth just so he could get free porn
One might conclude from this that a writer should not write about something that must be researched outside of their linguistic comfort zones. Such a response is impractical and small-minded—there are wonderful things all over the world, amazing stories to tell, and the fact that foreigners fall in love with Belgian altarpieces, and wish to write about them, or to visit them because they read a passionate writer’s account, is a good thing, and something to be proud of. But it does mean that a few errors may slip in. We writers and historians are grateful to those who pass on constructive criticism and can help point us in the right direction.
History is far from a science. It changes in the telling, for the teller may have an agenda of their own, or may have received misinformation, or new facts may arise. I am astounded and thrilled by the discoveries made already about The Ghent Altarpiece since my book came out, in 2010. I already published an updated edition (available as an eBook in English only at the moment), incorporating the information that generous Belgian historians offered me, as well as bringing the story up to speed. Even what counts as “fact” may be a matter of opinion. I recently stated that the Ghent police had done an impressive job in still chasing the Righteous Judges panel, and had traced it to Wetteren, where they found an outline in the dust at the back of the church choir screen the exact dimensions of the missing panel—that it (or an object of its precise dimensions) had hung there for long enough for the dirt and dust to settle around it, though of course when the police arrived, it was no longer there. This was told to me by members of the Ghent police department, and I was part of a BBC documentary film that included images and actually filmed behind the choir screen. That is as close to fact as a historian like me can get, and so I included it in the second edition of my book. A third edition will follow once the restoration work is complete, published in English and Dutch by a major Dutch publisher.
My book, as well as every other book or article ever written about The Ghent Altarpiece, will need an update, because the restoration has already uncovered major discoveries that dramatically change the way we think about what is probably the most important painting ever made. Recently one scholar has even convincingly argued that the Vijd chapel, in which the altarpiece was displayed, was not yet finished in 1432, the year it has been thought for centuries that the altarpiece was completed and first revealed to the public. The painting may not have been finished until 1435. These sort of revelations, stumbled upon in dusty archives and by searching beneath layers of over-paint, require the rewriting of history as we know it. It is important to keep in mind that historical fact is malleable and morphs. Foreigners tell tales differently from locals, and we foreigners rely on the kindness of locals to point out where they feel we may have erred. But with discoveries like those that arrive by the week in the restoration studio in the Museum of Fine Arts, the facts in every language will need updating. We foreign lovers of Belgian cultural heritage are grateful for any chance to engage with the art we love, particularly in such exciting times as these. I cannot wait to learn what else will be revealed by the end of the restoration of the world’s most-stolen painting.