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Newly Restored Medieval Mosaic, The Last Judgment, to be Unveiled at Prague's St. Vitus Cathedral

Six-Year Collaboration between the Getty and the Office of the President of the Czech Republic Culminates in Press Conference and Ceremony on October 29

October 12, 1998

Prague, Czech Republic/Los Angeles, Calif.--Barry Munitz, President and CEO of the J. Paul Getty Trust, will be joined by senior Czech authorities in a ceremony at St. Vitus Cathedral in Prague on Thursday, October 29, to unveil the newly restored central panel of The Last Judgment mosaic. Working with an international team of scientists and conservators, the Czech President's Office and the Getty have been engaged in a six-year project to research and implement new methods and materials for restoring this immense 14th-century glass mosaic, one of the Czech Republic's most significant cultural treasures.

"This important project is emblematic of the Getty's broad commitment to the visual arts, through our ongoing work in conservation, research, education, and grantmaking," said Munitz. "We are particularly grateful to our Czech colleagues for the opportunity to collaborate on this historic work of art. Our partnership has resulted not only in a magnificently restored and protected mosaic, but in the exchange and development of skills and technology that will inform the efforts of future generations of conservators."

The most important monumental exterior medieval mosaic north of the Alps,The Last Judgment covers 904 square feet (84 square meters) of the cathedral's south facade and is divided into three sections by Gothic spires. Since its creation 600 years ago, the gilded glass mosaic has rarely been seen in its full splendor. Repeated conservation attempts over the centuries have been unable to prevent the recurrence of a grayish layer of corrosion that obscures the mosaic, including the majestic central image of Christ in a mandorla, an almond-shaped aura of divinity, surrounded by angels.

"This brilliantly colored mosaic is made up of nearly a million small glass and stone cubes, or tesserae, in more than 30 different hues," explained Miguel Angel Corzo, Director of the Getty Conservation Institute. "Unfortunately the mosaic contains the seeds of its own destruction in that each individual piece of glass, containing high levels of potassium, is so unstable. The challenge to our conservation scientists was not merely to clean the mosaic, but to ensure its future survival by coming up with a coating that would both protect it and allow it to remain visible."

Getty scientists analyzed the mosaic's precise composition and causes of deterioration and tested numerous approaches to cleaning and treatment. A team of Getty and Czech conservators has now cleaned the fragile mosaic's central panel using special micro-sandblasters, and painstakingly applied to each tessera a multi-layer protective coating adapted from the aerospace and medical industries. This is the first time that the high-tech coating--developed in collaboration with the Department of Material Science Engineering at the University of California, Los Angeles--has been applied for art-conservation purposes. The results of the Getty's findings will be published and shared as a service to the field. The remaining two panels will be restored by Czech conservators in 1999 and 2000.

Today St. Vitus Cathedral receives over six million visitors a year. It is still used for religious services and contains important examples of Czech art from the 14th through 20th centuries, as well as the former Kingdom's Crown Jewels. Stored in a well guarded chamber just behindThe Last Judgment mosaic and rarely displayed, the Kingdom's Crown Jewels will be placed on view for eight days, October 24-November 1.

Press Conference and Unveiling on October 29

Barry Munitz, President and CEO of the J. Paul Getty Trust, and Miguel Angel Corzo, Director of the Getty Conservation Institute, will speak on Thursday, October 29 at a 1:00pm press conference in Prague Castle. They will be joined by senior Czech authorities in a 2:30pm unveiling ceremony, at the southern portal of St. Vitus Cathedral. The unveiling of The Last Judgment mosaic will coincide with national celebrations commemorating two historic events: the 80th anniversary of Czechoslovakia's founding, and the 650th anniversary of the founding of the "New Town" district of Prague and Charles University.

For press information please contact:

In Los Angeles:
Lori Starr, Director, Getty Public Affairs
Sylvia Sukop, Public Affairs Associate
The J. Paul Getty Trust
Tel. (310) 440-6474
Fax (310) 440-7722
Email ssukop@getty.edu

In Prague:
Veronika Mitkova, Press Specialist
Office of the President of the Czech Republic
Tel. (011) 420-2-24 37 31 74
Fax (011) 420-2-57 32 05 81
Email veronika.mitkova@hrad.cz

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In addition to its work on The Last Judgment mosaic, the Getty supports other projects in Central and Eastern Europe which will have a lasting impact in the region: In a recently concluded initiative (1991 to 1997), the Getty Grant Program provided acquisition funding for libraries in the region and fellowships for individual scholars to conduct art-historical research outside their home countries. This year, a major grant to the National Gallery of Prague will support the development of an interactive computer system, a resource that will interpret the Gallery's collection for a wide range of visitors. In total, the Grant Program has provided over $5 million in total support benefiting Central and Eastern European countries, nearly $1.5 million to the Czech Republic alone.

About the Getty:

The J. Paul Getty Trust is an international cultural and philanthropic institution devoted to the visual arts that features the Getty Conservation Institute, the Getty Foundation, the J. Paul Getty Museum, and the Getty Research Institute. The J. Paul Getty Trust and Getty programs serve a varied audience from two locations: the Getty Center in Los Angeles and the Getty Villa in Malibu.

Sign up for e-Getty at www.getty.edu/subscribe to receive free monthly highlights of events at the Getty Center and the Getty Villa via e-mail, or visit our event calendar for a complete calendar of public programs.

The Getty Conservation Institute works internationally to advance conservation practice in the visual arts-broadly interpreted to include objects, collections, architecture, and sites. The Institute serves the conservation community through scientific research, education and training, model field projects, and the dissemination of the results of both its own work and the work of others in the field. In all its endeavors, the GCI focuses on the creation and delivery of knowledge that will benefit the professionals and organizations responsible for the conservation of the world's cultural heritage. To learn more, subscribe to the GCI's E-Bulletin by visiting http://www.getty.edu/subscribe/gci_bulletin/.