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The exhibition ‘The Road to Van Eyck’ charts the development of European painting
in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. In the space next to this large exhibition in
Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen a Medieval Lab has been installed, where visitors
can learn about the working methods of artists from the time of master painter Jan
This autumn visitors to Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen can learn about the technical
aspects of medieval painting in an educational presentation accompanying the exhibition
‘The Road to Van Eyck’. In the Medieval Lab visitors can see how medieval artists prepared
their panels, how paint was made, what an artist’s workshop looked like and which
decorative and household objects were used as models for the paintings. The Medieval Lab
is fitted out as a scientific laboratory, where visitors can explore by themselves.
Colour and pigment
The Medieval Lab shows which colours and pigments Jan van Eyck used in the painting The
Three Marys at the Tomb (1430-1435). The painting underwent extensive restoration for the
exhibition, providing a wealth of information about the materials used. In an interactive
installation, visitors can light up various parts of the painting and learn about the pigments
used for these specific details. Visitors can also see how these pigments were made in the
time of Van Eyck. For example, they will learn that the ultramarine used for Mary’s blue
cloak was obtained from the costly semi-precious stone lapis lazuli. The green pigment
verdigris used for the soldier’s cloak was formed by a reaction between copper and an acid.
The construction of a medieval panel painting
Another display in the lab shows the nine stages involved in making a medieval panel
painting, illustrated with short films. For this a precise reconstruction of a detail from the
Norfolk Triptych (1415-1420) has been made, which is displayed in ‘The Road to Van Eyck’.
The display shows how the first layer of animal glue and chalk was applied to the wood, how
the underdrawing was done, how the gold leaf and underpainting were applied and, finally,
how the detailed painting work was begun.
New discoveries from ALMA research
The display about the Syrian apothecary’s pot presents new information about Jan van
Eyck’s painting The Three Marys at the Tomb that has emerged from recent ALMA research.
ALMA is a website launched by the museum in which depictions of pre-industrial household
items are linked to examples of similar material objects. It was recently made known that the
blue and white apothecary’s pot held by Maria Salomé in the painting is the earliest known
depiction of Arabic earthenware in a Northern European painting. For more information visit
The short videos about the construction of a medieval panel painting can also be seen on
ARTtube, the online video channel shared by five museums in the Netherlands and
The Medieval Lab is part of the exhibition ‘The Road to Van Eyck’. The exhibition has been
made possible by the generous support of: the Turing Foundation, Robeco, BankGiro Loterij,
Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands, SNS REAAL Fonds, VSBfonds, Prins Bernhard
Cultuurfonds (thanks, in part, to the Breeman Talle Fonds), Aon Artscope, Unilever,
Nedspice, Ploum Lodder Princen, Shell and Blockbusterfonds.
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