|Address:||Maltézské náměstí 1/471, 118 00 Praha 1|
|Description of work:||Restoration of exterior stone elementsRestoration and reconstruction of the façadeRestoration of stucco elementsRestoration of the sculptural bust|
|Investor:||Czech Ministry of Culture|
|Contractor:||GEMA ART GROUP a.s.|
|Implementation:||2002 – 2003|
The Nostic Palace, a building of great architectural and historic significance, is one of the most important stately homes in Prague and a present and past centre of the city’s cultural and social life. The Nostic family assembled an extensive art collection, second only to that of the picture gallery of the Černín Palace, also in Prague. The Nostic Library with its fourteen thousand volumes, which included 13th century manuscripts, has always been a magnet for scholars. The library was organized by František Martin Pelcl and Jaroslav Schaller and its collection served as a resource material for the leading Czech Enlightenment figure and philologist Josef Dobrovský.
Two houses – House of the Green Rose and House of the Golden Bear – stood on the site of today’s building and were demolished in 1662 on the orders of Jan Hartwig Nostic, who over several years built the Nostic Palace there, probably according to plans by the Italian architect Francesco Caratti. No significant alterations took place for many years and the palace kept its original appearance. In 1736 exterior stucco ornamentation and statues on the attic were added. The statues were the work of the well known artist F.M. Brokoff, who also created some of the statues for Charles Bridge. The palace interiors, namely its public premises, were redecorated in the 18th century with wall paintings by Václav Bernard Ambrož. At the turn of the 18th and 19th century the balcony and the library were remodelled in the Neoclassical style.
The Nostic family owned the palace till the end of World War II, when it was taken over by the state. From 1918 the premises of the palace were rented to the Dutch Embassy, who stayed there till 1998. In that year the palace became the property of the Ministry of Culture of the Czech Republic, who decided to return this important monument completely to its original appearance. The palace was officially reopened in April 2003 and its public parts, including the library, the picture gallery and the billiards room are open to visitors several times each year. The palace is used by the Minister of Culture as an official residence for receiving visitors and holding ministerial meetings.
Tasks carried out by GEMA ART GROUP a.s. expert staff involved repairs and restoration of the outer stone casing of the palace building and its individual stone elements and restoration of the stone bust of Count Nostic.
The most demanding part of the work was the restoration of the original Baroque façade, which was significantly decayed and covered in several non-original layers of plaster and paint. To ensure the highest standard of the work, extensive laboratory research, stratigraphy of the coating layers and consultations with expert restorers, Heritage Institute staff and architects all took place. Due to the unique architectural qualities of the palace and its status as a Cultural Monument, all stipulations of Act 20/1987 Coll., on State Conservation of Monuments were meticulously observed.
Restoration of stone monuments:
Restoration and reconstruction work on the stone elements of the exterior included ornamental urns, statues of Roman emperors, the balustrades, the stone portal and the base of the façade, all made from Hořice and Žehrovice sandstone. The valuable statues of Roman emperors, work of the sculptor F. M. Brokoff from 1720, had already been replaced by exact copies in the 19th century. These copies were covered in gypsum crusts, had been inexpertly repaired in the past and were damaged by cracks. Surveys of the stone and tests of surface cleaning were carried out prior to any intervention. Gypsum crusts were removed using repeated acid ammonium carbonate wraps. The cracks were infilled with low viscosity resin and the surfaces were visually harmonized and colour retouched.
Similar procedures were used in the restoration of the stone balustrade on the front façade of the palace; in addition the balustrade was repeatedly saturated with organosilicate consolidant. The white salt blooms on the stone base of the façade were removed using distilled water and cotton wool wraps. Restoration of the stone portal included the renovation of its gilded parts, using real gold leaf with mixtion.
Restoration of stuccoes:
Before work could commence, a survey of the surfaces and cleaning tests had to be carried out. The surface of the stuccoes was covered in dust deposits and in places cracked. Some parts of the stuccoes had fallen off altogether. The surfaces were cleaned and unsuitable cement repairs removed. The cracks were then infilled and missing parts remodelled. Surfaces were then sanded and smoothed with spatulas and felt.
Restoration and reconstruction of the facade:
The façade of the Nostic Palace had been subject to interventions many times in the past, as indicated by several layers of later plastering uncovered underneath the current surface. Samples were taken for laboratory analysis to establish levels of salinity and types and quality of the plastering. The layers were gradually removed to reveal the original Baroque plastering, which was not sufficiently cohesive and had to be restored.
The surfaces had to be strengthened and cracked areas repeatedly sealed. These complicated restoration techniques achieved the aim of preserving the authentic material of the plastering. To finish the task the surfaces were coated in lime stucco in colour tones which were chosen according to results of colour testing and resembled as closely as possible the original Baroque colouring.
Restoration of the bust:
Restoration work on the stone bust took place from January until April 2003 in the restoration workshop where the bust was taken. The statue was dirty and exhibited numerous instances of mechanical damage. Points of the foliage and of the laurel sprig and one corner of the plinth had broken off and had to be remodelled with suitable material.