Damaged Alfons Mucha painting restored in Slovakia


A work by the famous art nouveau painter Alfons Mucha hangs serenely in the Grand restaurant of the hotel Thermia Palace in Piestany about one hour from the Slovak capital Bratislava. 'Be greeted, the Blessed Spring of Health' -as it's called - was stolen seven years ago and damaged by the thieves. Its restoration has taken a lot of hard work.

There's a story behind this precious painting that appears to come right out of a mystery book. Jana Obertova from the public relations department of Spa Piestany describes to us the painting.

"In this picture you can see three young girls. One on the left is [the] daughter of Alfons Mucha on [a] wheelchair and [the] two others are Slovak Piestany girls who are brining flowers to Alfons Mucha's daughter. And, this picture Mucha painted as thanks for Piestany spa for treating [his] daughter."

The painting was stolen from the hotel in 2000 by two unprofessional thieves. They cut it out of its frame, handled it improperly and rolled it causing the paint to crack. In many places, loss of the original paint layer occurred all the way down to the underlayer. Hotel manager Lucia Prva explains what happened to it.

"The details I just know that it was found in Czech republic ... the dealers meet somewhere and they wanted to hand the picture and the police caught them. It came back in bad condition? Yes,... it came to the hotel in bad condition and then during the reconstruction this picture has been restored and after the 10 months it was redone."

Alfons Mucha
Jan Hromada is the man who restored the painting. Hromada studied art restoration in Italy and has restored many significant artworks in Slovakia. He scrutinized every single detail of Mucha's painting. He had to use the latest technology to do his work: scanning the painting with infrared camera as well as chemical technical analysis of the pigments. He tells us how he went about restoring the painting.

"It was necessary to do some chemical analysis and to evaluate the value of this painting. There were some questions regarding this particular painting because it was forgotten. This painting was ordered in the 1930s by the Winter family. At that time, Mucha was the last stage of his career and life.. It is thought that while he was in Piestany, that he was looking for themes for his paintings. The young women who are in this particular painting are from the Piestany area. Mucha felt he was forgotten because The Slav Epic was rejected. The Winter family, however, realised what a great painter he was. The hotel was built in 1912, and the Winter family wanted to have his painting on the wall. Mucha was not recognized during his life. Art Deco was a short period in the history of painting. His style was called Mucha's style."

I asked Hromada what was the most difficult part of the restoration.

"The most difficult part was to get rid of the damage which was caused by cutting out the painting from the frame. The edges of the canvas were damaged by the cutting. The edges of the painting were left behind at the hotel, and the two parts had to be put back together. Some of these small parts of the canvas were also totally gone. Also, we needed to make the canvas stronger. So, I had to glue it onto another canvas. The name of the glue is beva. hen, I could fill in the parts that were missing. The holes were filled in according to a photograph."

Ten months after its restoration, the painting looks like it has never been scratched.