The Malta Independent 17 November 2018, Saturday

The sculptor of Floriana statue of St Publius

Monday, 12 June 2017, 15:07 Last update: about 2 years ago

Fr Hermann Duncan O.Carm

 

Among the famous sculptors that our country can boast of is without doubt sculptor Vincenzo Dimech, who was the cousin of famous sculptor Mariano Gerada (1766-1823). Dimech was born in Valletta on 29 June 1768 and baptized in Porto Salvo Parish Church in Valletta.

After receiving much training under his father, Francesco, a sculptor too, Vincenzo continued his studies in Naples at the Scuola delle Belle Arte.

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In 1802, Vincenzo got married to Saveria Mathea de Marco and had a son named Sigismondo who went on to become a Professor of Law at the University of Malta.

Vincenzo distinguished himself as a leading Maltese sculptor of the early 19th century. He was commisioned to carry out many important civil and ecclesiastical works. For a period of time around 1806, he was professor of Architecture and Sculpture at the School of Design at the University of Malta.

Dimech is best known for the monument he sculpted of Judge Sir Joseph Nicola Zammit, made in Maltese stone, located at the Upper Baracca Gardens, in Valletta. He was assisted by his second cousin, Ferdinand Dimech, who made the lions beside this monument. It was erected in 1824 on the initiative of Governor Maitland in remembrance of Judge Zammit, vice president of the Court of Appeal and member of the Supreme Council of Justice.

Another monument is found in the centre of the Lower Baracca Gardens. This is the neo-classical temple built through public subscription in 1810 to commemorate Vice Admiral Sir Alexander Ball, who was the first British Commissioner of Malta. The monument was built on the style of a Greek temple with a sloping roof standing on Doric columns. Four allegorical figures symbolising War, Prudence, Justice and Immortality were sculpted by Vincenzo Dimech and are set in niches behind the fluted Doric colonnade.

Certainly the most famous statues sculpted by Vincenzo Dimech is the statue of St Publius situated in the parish church of Floriana completed in 1811 and the marble statue known as Our Lady of Nets located in Senglea.

Another statue worthy of mention is that of St Joseph sculpted in 1826, found in the Collegiate Basilica Church of Birkirkara. This polychrome statue made of wood shows a number of anatomical attributes and details that give a special artistic quality. It is interesting to note that the sculpture is quite unique as St Joseph is wearing trousers as opposed to the usual iconographic tunic.

 

In the Mosta Rotunda near the niche of Our Lady, we find a group of wooden statues representing the baptism of Christ by St John. This beautiful work of art was sculpted by Dimech in 1806 and was originally placed in the old parish church. These statues used to incorporate the Holy Spirit with rays, as well as a group of four putti which were never placed in the present church. The statuary group cost 270 scudi.

In front of the church of St Theresa in Cospicua there is a large baroque statue of St Elijah. It is indeed a monumental piece of work carved in Maltese stone.

Another remarkable statue is that of St Joseph, located in the parish church of Żurrieq. Some believe that this statue was started by Mariano Gerada but was never finished due to his sudden death. It was completed by Dimech in around 1825.

Moving on to Gudja, the Baroque parish church is dedicated to the Assumption of Our Lady to heaven. It is worth noting that this is the only church in Malta that has three bell towers. The most important and beautiful sculpture found in this church, is that of the Assumption of Our Lady sculpted from solid wood, in 1807.

Dimech also made a name for himself away from our shores, when he worked in Greece along with his cousin Ferdinand and Paul Prossolentis. They were responsible for all the sculptures inside the Royal Palace of Corfu. The Palace was commissioned by Thomas Maitland, Civil High Commissioner for Malta and the lonian islands to commemorate the creation of the Sovereign Order of St Michael and St George in 1818. What is interesting is that Maltese stone and the work of Maltese labourers was employed in the construction of the Palace building, designed by Colonel Whitmore.

These are just a few selections of the statues and masterpieces made by Dimech.

Vincenzo died on 2 February 1831 in Valletta and was buried in the church of St Theresa in Cospicua.

I would like to end this article by thanking all those whose work I referred to in this compilation.


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