Dutch Middle Age altarpieces found in Norway

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Up until recently, altarpieces from the Middle Ages found in churches along the coast of Norway have been called Lübeck altarpieces, as experts assumed they were imported to Norway by the Hanseatics from Lübeck, Germany.

After analysing the altarpieces using advanced technical equipment such as an infrared camera, UV camera and electron microscope, research by Kristin Kausland of the Department of Archaeology, Conservation and History at the University of Oslo (the only person to have a Ph”D. in conservation from a Norwegian university) has shown that major parts of these pieces were in fact made in Norway and not in Northern Germany. Paint fragments as well as gilding, type of wood, hinges and type of paint are some of the elements have helped reveal where an altarpiece was made.

The biggest surprise is that instead of figuring out if the altarpieces came from Norway or Germany, it turns out a lot of them were made in the Netherlands. In fact, 10 of the 60 altarpieces Kausland studied were made here, which is a big deal since according to her, almost all the altarpieces in the Netherlands were lost during the Protestant Reformation when the decision was taken to destroy church decorations. There’s also talk of a possible exhibition in the Netherlands at some stage to see what the fuss is all about.

(Link and image of a Dutch altarpiece from Western Norway: phys.org)

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