Mosaic 'doctor' orders treatment for Albert

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The Independent Online

One of the world's leading mosaic experts has brought his individual working methods to bear on the work on the Albert Memorial, in west London.

Cavaliere Giovanni Cucco, the chief mosaicist at St Mark's Basilica, in Venice, yesterday deployed his stethoscope and a tuning fork as part of the pounds 14m restoration work being carried out by English Heritage.

He said: "The way I examine the mosaics is like a doctor listening to the heartbeat of a patient. In parts, the condition of the mosaics is molto malata - extremely ill. They have suffered badly from rainwater penetration over the last century.

"After the initial examination this week we are hoping that fewer sections of the mosaic will need to be removed than we originally feared."

The restoration is only the latest stage in the process of repairing the memorial. Built by Sir George Gilbert Scott to commemorate Prince Albert, it was unveiled in 1876 and serious repairs on the mosaics were last carried out in 1904. The main problem is that the iron core of the memorial, which is 70 to 100ft tall, has rusted. The renovations are scheduled for completion in 1999.