Gozo Minister Anton Refalo defended the decision which resulted in the purchase of a Mattia Preti painting this evening, while delivering his Parliamentary adjournment speech.
Last week, PN MP Chris Said slammed the purchase, expressing his shock and stating that, with that amount of money (€400,000) 'so much more could have been done'. Dr Said had questioned whether the Ministry of Finance had authorised the purchase, as well as the allocation of this money with reference to the budget, noting that in the budget, only €50,000 was allocated for the procurements of works of art.
The minister said that "the painting was bought through the Finance Ministry's permission, which allowed Heritage Malta to place the bid for the painting up to a maximum of €350,000, under three conditions. "The first condition was that Heritage Malta be informed of the whole process throughout, that the painting be authentic and the third that a detailed report be given to the Ministry of finance. The painting did not cost €400,000 as Dr Said said, but was bought for €320,000".
He said the painting was bought for the Gozo Museum. "Mattia Preti has links to Malta and Gozo, and nobody doubts that the painting is genuine." He criticised Dr Said for saying Heritage Malta advised against the purchase, "when it was Heritage Malta that placed the bid." The painting was bought from an auction house in New York, he said.
He said that the painting is an artistic treasure, and that Mattia Preti has strong ties to the island. He quoted Professor Keith Sciberras, who called it a marvelous and important painting. "Everyone agrees that this is one of the best paintings by Mattia Preti, from the time when he was still coming to Malta."
He mentioned that the Preti companion-piece, 'David Playing the Harp Before Saul', was sold for over $2 million in 2008.