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Panel Paintings Symposium - Facing the Challenges of Panel Paintings Conservation: Trends, Treatments and Training - to be Held At the Getty Center on May 17 and 18, 2009

April 1, 2009

LOS ANGELES—In 1311, a special public holiday was declared in Siena, Italy, for the inauguration of Duccio’s Maestà, a striking double-sided altarpiece painted on wood panels measuring nearly seven by fourteen feet, featuring a blue-robed Madonna and child surrounded by a throng of haloed angels and saints. The impressive work was carried through the streets of the city to the cathedral in a celebratory procession led by officials holding lit candles, and followed by throngs of citizens. 

For more than 400 years, panel paintings formed a central component of European religious and social life, and these works now rank among the most significant pieces of art in collections in the United States, Europe, and Russia—but there remain only a handful of seasoned conservators worldwide capable of restoring, caring for, and keeping these treasures structurally and aesthetically safe for future generations.

Few conservators have the experience necessary to deal with the increasingly complex conservation issues posed by these works, which include some of the world’s most famous paintings, such as Leonardo da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa.”  Rembrandt, Rubens, Dürer, Van Eyck and even Goya used panels for many of their works.  Most currently active conservation specialists will retire in the next five to ten years, and there are no training programs in the US or Europe, apart from the Fortezza da Basso Conservation Studios of the Opificio delle Pietre Dure in Florence, that offer training in the structural conservation of panel paintings as a specialty. 

The Getty aims to close this alarming gap in expertise.  On May 17 and 18, the Getty Conservation Institute, the J. Paul Getty Museum, and the Getty Foundation will collaboratively host a symposium at the Getty Center entitled "Facing the Challenges of Panel Paintings Conservation: Trends, Treatments and Training."

The symposium will highlight recent developments in panel paintings research and conservation, ranging from specific treatment projects to related exhibition issues, and will involve the discussion of education and training needs.  Symposium speakers and contributors comprise some of the top experts from around the world, including specialists in the structural treatment of panel paintings, as well as curators, scientists, and conservation specialists in related fields. The symposium is open to professionals and graduate students in the fields of art history, conservation, conservation science, museum studies, and other related fields.  Contributions to the symposium will be published and made available online.

Aside from the symposium, the Getty Foundation has awarded a grant of roughly $250,000 to the State Art Museum, Denmark, to conduct a needs assessment of the current state of panel paintings conservation in collaboration with the GCI and the J. Paul Getty Museum.  In addition, the Foundation will provide a series of grants for current panel paintings experts to directly train two generations of conservators at post-graduate, mid-career, and advanced levels.

The Foundation, GCI, and the J. Paul Getty Museum will facilitate these individuals’ hands-on training with workshops and improved access to the shared knowledge of this field.  Workshops will focus on topics ranging from basic wood technology to the history of panel construction.

Through the GCI, the initiative also will compile and produce several resources, which will be made available online on the Getty website at The resources will include a searchable literature database, both new and digitized publications, and translated key texts as well as other teaching resources that will be produced for future workshops or conservation training fellowships.

The Getty Museum owns well over 100 panel paintings, including such masterworks as Bernardo Daddi’s Madonna, Saint Thomas Aquinas, and Saint Paul (ca.1330), and Rembrandt’s The Abduction of Europa (1632).

Additional Events

Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa Uncovered
Tuesday, May 19, 2009, 7p.m.
Museum Lecture Hall

Leonardo's Mona Lisa is arguably one of the most famous paintings in the world—if not the most famous. The abundance of speculation about her enigmatic smile, her identity, and the meaning of the painting has only increased her fame; but what does the Mona Lisa really look like down to the nanometer scale?

Join Michel Menu, head of the research department at the Centre de recherche et de restauration des musées de France, as he takes us on a journey of exploration below the surface of this extraordinary painting.   Michel Menu is head of the research department (laboratory) at the Centre de recherche et de restauration des musées de France (Center for Research and Restoration of the French Museums) and a principal organizer of the project to examine the Mona Lisa.

The lecture is free of charge. Reservations are required.  For additional information, visit

The lecture will be recorded in video and made available online after the event.  Attendance at this lecture is not included in the registration for the Symposium.

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Melissa Abraham  
Getty Communications

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.

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The Getty Foundation fulfills the philanthropic mission of the Getty Trust by supporting individuals and institutions committed to advancing the understanding and preservation of the visual arts locally and throughout the world. Through strategic grants and programs, the Foundation strengthens art history as a global discipline, promotes the interdisciplinary practice of conservation, increases access to museum and archival collections, and develops current and future leaders in the visual arts. The Foundation carries out its work in collaboration with the Getty Museum, Research Institute, and Conservation Institute to ensure the Getty programs achieve maximum impact. Additional information is available at To learn more, subscribe to the Foundation's e-newsletter by visiting

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

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