Tag Archives: exhibitions Malta

Reunited: Art Expert Prof Sciberras Talks Preti, His Legacy, and the Importance of the Exhibition in Turin.

The recent homecoming of a number of Mattia and Gregorio Preti’s paintings has landmarked the return of the Wignacourt’s enviable Preti collection in its entirety.

The paintings, which were in Turin for five months, formed part of the remarkable exhibition, Il Cavalier Calabrese Mattia Preti tra Caravaggio e Luca Giordano, which was set up to commemorate Mattia Preti’s 400th birthday.

Oriental Man by Gregorio Preti

 We caught up with Professor Keith Sciberras to ask him about the importance of Preti’s legacy to Malta and Maltese art, what makes the Wignacourt’s Pretis special, and just how momentous it was to have a number of the paintings from the Wignacourt’s collection exhibited in Turin.

Mattia Preti plunged Malta directly into the spirit of Baroque art. His manner was triumphant and monumental, and was particularly suited to the imagery required by the knights of Malta,” Professor Sciberras tells us. “The artist gathered around him a large bottega and dominated artistic production in Malta for four decades.  His style imprinted itself on the Maltese baroque tradition.

Mattia Preti

Preti’s pictures of St Peter in Tears and St Peter Blessing at the Wignacourt are wonderful examples of his mid-Maltese period easel works. The artist produced a number of single-figure saints in a close-up rendition typical of the Neapolitan tradition for both the religious and private market,” he continues.

 

Madonna of Sorrows by Mattia Preti

A small Mater Dolorosa, also by the artist and also found at the Wignacourt, is a rare example of his late period small-scale works. The Wignacourt Museum also houses two paintings, representing the Baptism of Christ and St Publius, on temporary loan display from private collections. They are recent additions to Preti’s oeuvre and were discovered in 2012.

The exhibition in Turin, held at the Reggia La Venaria, showcased 50 paintings by Preti and other major artists of the period. The inclusion of the paintings of the Baptism of Christ and St Publius served to introduce these works to art critics and to the general public. Their participation in the show reflects the Wignacourt Museum’s outreach,” he concludes.

Mattia Preti’s work, along with the work of many other artists and artisans, can be enjoyed at the museum and we invite all art enthusiasts, tourists and anyone else who might be interested to visit the Wignacourt.

For more information on the artworks or the museum you can contact us on +356 2749 4905 or at info@wignacourtmuseum.com

The Wignacourt & Its Catacombs

Beneath the splendour of the Wignacourt in Rabat lies an underground necropolis just waiting to be explored – its catacombs.

St Paul’s Catacombs

Before the Silent City became known as Città Notabile, and even before it got its name Mdina, Melite’s boundaries stretched all the way to Wignacourt College. Later resized to its current dimensions by the Arabs, its citizens during the time of the Roman era buried their deceased outside the city’s walls, deep under the Earth’s surface.

The catacombs adjoining the Wignacourt date back to around 200AD and are part of the hypogea of a Roman necropolis that is truly a feat in terms of its architecture. When venturing down into these vaults of history, in fact, you can appreciate a myriad of differently-styled tombs, from the saddle-backed baldacchino tombs (which are basically a hole with an semi-circular opening) to through-less baldacchino tombs (similar to the baldacchino tombs but, this time, with two openings), to window tombs and small loculi (tombs which are traditionally considered Egyptian in style).

This underground cemetery, which was positioned outside the city’s walls because of hygienic reasons, also doubled as a place for mourners to conglomerate. It was also the place where rituals could be performed. At the end of the tunnels, in fact, there is an Agape table, which was used for ritual meals to celebrate those who had died.

Today, because of the many cases of looting over the centuries, not much remains of what used to be inside the catacombs, yet visitors can still happen across century-old bones. The awesomeness of these catacombs, however, does not come from their eeriness but rather from our forefathers’ attention to detail. Some window tombs, for example, still have the purposely-carved indentations in the rock – the spot where the deceased’s heads would have once lain.

Although centuries have passed, there is still a solemnness to these tombs that cannot quite be explained in words. Going slowly down the steps that separate our everyday life from this underworld that is almost two millennia old, you can’t help but feel engulfed by a world that is long-gone.

For more information on the catacombs, which form part of Heritage Malta’s St Paul’s Catacombs complex, and the Wignacourt Museum you can contact us on +356 2749 4905 or at info@wignacourtmuseum.com

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 info@wignacourtmuseum.com

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.

 

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.