Monthly Archives: September 2013

Painting the Wignacourt Purplle

Band Purplle T3ree is set to take centre stage this Thursday as Wignacourt’s Summer Under the Stars keeps on shining well into autumn.

The Wignacourt is fast becoming as well-known for cultural events as it is for history. Seven weeks after Summer Under the Stars was kicked off with a roar of laughter by the Wembley Store Boys, the series of culture and music that took over Thursday nights is set to continue, even though summer has now made way for autumn.

Purplle T3ree, a band formed of guitarist and cajonist Matt West and frontman Ben Purplle (who will also be on the guitar) are now set to follow in the footsteps of the acts who have made Wignacourt’s Summer Under the Stars a staple summer event.

“Performing at the Wignacourt feels like you’re going back in time,” Ben Purplle tells us. “We keep imagining that, at some point, a group of people will walk in dressed in old-fashioned attire, see us there playing modern music, and charge us with playing black magic chants!

“History at the Wignacourt is such a strong concept, but it’s also great at adapting to modernity… and this event is going to be a great, one-of-a-kind experience! We are three, tightly-connected musicians who, although influenced by different things, produce a unified sound. Those joining us on the night can look forward to a chilled-out experience, and plenty of fantastic covers performed in our own trademark style.”

Purplle T3ree will perform at the Wignacourt Wine Gardens on Thursday 3 October 2013 from 9pm onwards. Please call on 2749 4905 to book your table.

Mattia and Gregorio Preti’s Return

It is a joyful day for art lovers in Malta as two of Wignacourt’s most important pieces have returned home after a short stay in Turin.

Mattia Preti’s St Publius (ca. 1668-1669) and Oriental Man Holding a Pipe and a Glass of Wine (c. 1635-1640) by Mattia’s brother, Gregorio Preti, have now been returned to the Wignacourt after five months in Turin, where they formed part of the dazzling Il Cavalier Calabrese Mattia Preti tra Caravaggio e Luca Giordano. The exhibition, curated by Vittorio Sgarbi and Keith Sciberras, was held between May and September of this year at La Venaria to honour the 400th anniversary of Mattia Preti’s birth.

The paintings, which are on loan from a private collector, has only recently been discovered and restored, and Il Cavalier Calabrese was their first exhibit outside of the Wignacourt. Both masterpieces were placed in the ‘Volti e Personaggi’ room, in which most of the artwork follows a typical format of a half-length figure depicted within a vertical canvas space.

Oriental Man by Gregorio Preti

Gregorio’s Oriental Man, rather than being an actual portrait, is a typecasting of the men found in the taverns of and around Rome back then, and a similar kind of figure is repeated in another work by Gregorio, Le Nozze di Cana (Rome, Palazzo Taverna di Montegiordano). The painting was created in a late-Caraveggesque manner, in which the chiaroscuro technique was used – the style uses light from the top left of the painting thus illuminating one side of the figure; contrasting the rest of the image.

St Publius by Mattia Preti

Mattia Preti’s depiction of St Publius, however, moves away from this technique, which had become quite popular at the time. Mattia used volto illuminato instead, which is a characteristic that he made use of during his first phase in Malta, to which St Publius dates back to. The same technique can be observed in his portrayal of saints at Sarria Church in Floriana.

Nevertheless, his true genius can be seen in the brush strokes of the drapery and the application of pigment – which are also traits of his early work in Malta. The absence of symbols in the painting, however, has made it very difficult to identify the saint. But the likeness to a depiction of St Publius by Preti at the Church of St Publius adjoining the Wignacourt has led many to believe it is another representation of the saint.

Both artworks are now on display at the Wignacourt along with Mattia Preti’s other work at the museum.

For more information on the artworks or the museum you can contact us on +356 2749 4905 or at

Good Things Come In Threes

The Wignacourt’s curated tours to the sound of Stalko’s indie music have been so popular they are set to return for the third time on Thursday 17 September.

Stalko curated tours.

Stalko curated tours.

In anticipation of next Thursday’s event, we spoke to some of the recent attendees to discover what exactly made these events so incredibly special.

“There are only positive things that spring to mind when I think back to Stalko’s curated tour of the Wignacourt. The tour was magical from start to finish, with lots of surprises along the way,” Alison Galea, the lead singer of Beangrowers, tells us.

“I had never been to the Wignacourt, so it was an exciting evening. It was a great combination of culture and good, acoustic music, which promised a peaceful vibe to everybody there. Plus, Stalko performed really well in that setting and I was pleased to be a part of it. The Wignacourt Café was a welcoming start and wonderful finish to the perfect evening… I loved it!”

The same feelings were shared by designer Saz Mifsud.

“The stalko event at the Wignacourt was such a unique experience. It is one worth attending as it proved to be the perfect combination of art and music. I have never been to an exhibition which was also a gig,” says Saz. “The Wignacourt is special because when learning about the art on show at the museum, you also learn more about Maltese history. And, as for stalko, their folk melodies blended perfectly with the museum’s ambience.”

Stalko will perform at the Wignacourt and the adjoining war shelters and catacombs on Thursday 17 September 2013 from 9pm onwards, while the Wembley Store Boys will be on stage on Thursday 10 October 2013 from 9pm onwards. To reserve you places for both Stalko and the Wembley Store Boys please call on 2749 4905.

King Henry VIII’s Assertio Septem Sacramentorum

Before King Henry VIII of England separated the Church of England from the Roman Catholic Church, he was given the title of Fidei Defensor (Defender of the Faith) by Pope Leo X for writing Assertio Septem Sacramentorum, a copy of which is on display at the Wignacourt in Rabat, Malta.

The 16th century was a time plagued by religious warfare, and the repercussions and results of the conflicts that ensued can still be felt to this very day in every corner of the Western world. From Martin Luther, to the first translation of the Bible from Latin to German, to the dissolution of the Church of England from the Papacy, to the mass murder of Protestants that gave Mary I of England the nickname ‘Bloody Mary’, no artefacts recount the tale better than the books that were penned at the time.

One of these is Henry VIII’s Assertio Septem Sacramentorum (In Defence of the Seven Sacraments), a theological treatise that challenged Martin Luther’s attacks on the authority of the Pope and the Church’s use of indulgences to collect money from its believers. The disquisition was widely read and went through about 20 editions from 1521, when it was first published, to the end of the 16th century when the book went out of print.

Henry VIII

The copy now at the Wignacourt dates back to 1562, and was left to the museum by one of its most important benefactors: the notary Catania. This particular copy was produced in Paris, France and was probably reprinted during the run-up to the French Wars of Religion, when Protestants and Catholics battled for both their beliefs and their survival.

The book, like many other objects found in museums all over the world, gives humanity a testament of a turbulent past whose effect was titanic, and the hope that even the darkest of times fade from memory.


Summer Under the Stars: Thank You!

Now in its fifth week, the Summer Under the Stars series of culture and music has seen the Wignacourt become a stage for stand up comedy by the Wembley Store Boys, a backdrop to the neo-Maltese music of Nafra, a hybrid of history and acoustics for Stalko’s sold-out curated tour, and the setting for the farewell gig by Silver Linings.  

Malcolm Galea

Each of the great events has been a magical journey and, at the Wignacourt, we are tremendously happy to see that our wonderful clientele and friends of the Wignacourt have enjoyed it as much as we have.

It is also with great pleasure that we confirm that, even though summer’s about to come to a close, our cultural nights shall not be ending. Due to overwhelming demand, Stalko will be returning to provide the soundtrack to our curated tours not just this Thursday but also next!

On top of that, the Wembley Boys are also returning on 10 October and we have more great artists and events planned for after that too.

Enjoying summer under the stars

So, for now, all we’d like is: THANK YOU and see you all there!

Stalko will perform at the Wignacourt and the adjoining war shelters and catacombs on Thursday 19 September and Thursday 3 October 2013 from 9pm onwards, while the Wembley Boys will be on stage on Thursday 10 October 2013 from 9pm onwards. To book your places for both Stalko and the Wembley Store Boys please call on 2749 4905.

A One Of A Kind Portable Altar

When one thinks of treasures, the first things that usually come to mind are items that are valuable in themselves, like gold or precious stones; but one of the Wignacourt’s most prized possessions is a modest portable altar many would probably walk past.

Found on the first floor of the museum, the portable altar is neither adorned with gold nor was it particularly valuable in its heyday. But centuries later, as the rest of its kin have been lost to time, it has become a truly unique object.

This kind of altar was a staple on any galley bearing the flag of the Sovereign Military Order of the Knights of St John, and were highly practical since they allowed the knights to hear Mass whenever and wherever they needed to.

Portable Altar

The altar, although quite compact when set up, has storage space on either side where candles, Hosts and anything else needed to celebrate Mass can be stowed away. It also has two lamps which illuminate the altar while being used; a small crucifix in its centre made out of ivory; and is decorated with prayers in Latin which would have been recited by the knights – although these have mostly faded away.

In its simplicity, however, the altar is also impressive, particularly in the way it was built with the motion of the rough seas in mind. The chalices used on such altars were suspended right underneath the ivory crucifix, and they could balance themselves out depending on the movement of the waves and the tilting of the vessel. The altar found at the Wignacourt is even more special than all the other alters of its kind, because it is the only known portable altar of the sort to survive the test of time.




Wignacourt’s Silver Linings

A singing event by one of Wignacourt’s very own.

The Summer Under The Stars series of culture returns for the fourth week in a row this Thursday with Silver Linings, a group composed of singers Frederica Agius (one of the assistant curators at the Wignacourt) and Stephie Soler, with Josef Cassar on the violin, Peter Farrugia on the cajon, and Analise Cassar helping out with vocals.

“We’re excited to play at the Wignacourt Wine Garden – it’s the perfect venue for an end of summer gig and this will be our last gig for a while as Stephie is leaving on Erasmus soon!” says Frederica, one of the founders of Silver Linings.


“The Wignacourt has so much potential for gigs, as well as other performance arts, and we’re just happy to be part of it. They have given us a great opportunity to be involved and we hope people will join us for a relaxed evening with some popular songs we love listening to and playing!”

Both Frederica and Stephie are still at university reading for different Bachelors, nevertheless, they have played at a various events and venues – their favourite being a country and Western themed party last year.

They really enjoy doing covers and choosing songs they like playing and listening to, however, as Frederica told us, “we would love to write and play our own stuff and hopefully that will happen in the near future!”

Silver Linings will perform at the Wignacourt Wine Gardens on Thursday 12 September 2013 from 9pm. Please call on 2749 4905 to book your table.

Ray Cortis’ ‘Roots’ – In deep at the Wignacourt

Ray Cortis 2

There is something sinister about Ray Cortis’ work: a sort of magic in the movement, a surrealism in the depiction of his objects, and what seems to be a bottled-up pain that just had to come out. Whatever it is that his work makes you feel, however, one thing is obvious: he is no amateur to the art scene.

Working under the guidance of master Anton Agius, the apprentice has now carved a name for himself. As Ray Cortis told us, “Anton Agius is the person who helped me improve my skills as a woodcarver and even more so as an artist.”

Entitled Roots – due to the fact that Cortis enjoys “working on tree roots, because most of the works are in roots, and last but not least, because roots and trees are interesting material in terms of colours, form and movement” – the exhibition has been at the Wignacourt since July, and has attracted many visitors and much positive feedback.

Ray Cortis 1

Cortis’ work is of the highest quality and innately Maltese. The aim for his endeavors, at least this time round, was to “express human fingers in the most classic of ways, particularly in the depiction of the guardian angel” and for the artist to express himself in “a most poetic and dramatic way.”

In our very biased opinion, he has managed this wonderfully, but don’t take our word for it. Ray Cortis’s Roots is on until the end of September and definitely deserves a visit.

For more information on ‘Roots’ contact us on +356 2749 4905.

Stalko and the Curated Tour

stalko logs2 (by Julian Vassallo)

Intimate, interactive and unique: take a curated tour of the Wignacourt Museum to the sound of Stalko.

Now in its third week, the Summer Under The Stars series of culture and music at the Wignacourt continues with Maltese indie music played in our historic surroundings. With the help of Frederica Agius, Stalko has “turned this gig into a combination of musical performance and a curated tour of the museum, the war shelters and the catacombs,” says Michael Stivala, one of the band’s talented performers.

Stalko (by Denise Scicluna)

“We’re going to spend the evening moving through a number of the rooms on a tour interspersed with music. Some of the locations, especially the underground war shelters and catacombs, will make for a wonderful, intimate environment for a gig.”

The band is also known for its great choice of venues and they are very excited about gigging at the Wignacourt, particularly due to its wealth of history, which, as Michael adds, they “hope to explore and further expose.”

Photo by Chris Vella

Stalko will perform at the Wignacourt and the adjoining war shelters and catacombs on Thursday 5 September and Thursday 19 September 2013 from 9pm onwards. The gig on the 5th is already sold out but please do call on 2749 4905 to book your place for the 19th