CODART, Dutch and Flemish art in museums worldwide

STAM’s 1534 masterpiece: genuine or fake?

Exhibition: 26 February - 24 May 2015

From the museum’s press release, 26 February 2015

A masterpiece under investigation
Recently doubts were raised about the authenticity of one of STAM’s masterpieces. The earliest painted vista of the city, the Panoramic View of Ghent 1534, was claimed to be a romantic 19th-century painting rather than a 16th-century work. For STAM, this was the opportunity to subject the work to an in-depth scientific study. The museum is now presenting the results of the investigation in the form of an exhibition.

Genuine 16th-century work of art or a fake? Find out for yourself by visiting Case 1534. A masterpiece under investigation.

The painting is intriguing. It is an anonymous work, painted on canvas, which represents a topographical view of the city as it appeared prior to the momentous changes wrought on the city on the orders of Emperor Charles V. The year 1534 appears on the painted map. The City of Ghent acquired the work in 1875 as a work of historical significance for the understanding of the medieval metropolis. All of these factors contribute to the mystery that surrounds this painting.

The investigation
STAM submitted the painting for an in-depth analysis using the latest scientific research methods. In 2011, the artwork was moved to the Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage (IRPA) to be pored over by international specialists in highly diverse disciplines. Optical microscopes, pigment analysis and infrared reflectography were all employed in order to learn more about the painting method, the type of paint used, the different layers of paint and the date of provenance.

STAM is presenting the surprising results to the public in an exhibition that features contextual sources, a documentary about the study and – as the icing on the cake – several other 16th-century Ghent cityscapes and plans presented side by side. Does the painting really date from 1534? The answer is more complex than a simple yes or no and the study throws light on many other interesting questions arising from this masterful work.