The Malta Independent 21 August 2019, Wednesday

The Malta Independent Online

Malta Independent Thursday, 19 October 2006, 00:00 Last update: about 7 years ago

The stately building that hosts the National Museum of Fine Arts in South Street, Valletta dates back to the late 1570s. It served as a residence of various Knights of the Order of St John. In the mid-18th century, it was transformed into a Rococo palace. After 1798 it was used mainly as the official residence of the commander-in-chief of the Mediterranean Fleet and was referred to as the Admiralty House. The National Museum of Fine Arts was inaugurated in 1974. It houses historical works of art and organises temporary exhibitions of contemporary art.

The greater part of the museum collection is made up of works of art that were originally displayed in buildings that belonged to the Order of St John. The collection of the paintings and sculptures began in the early years of the 20th century. Since then, individuals and organisations have made important donations to the collection.

The Fine Arts collection is displayed in a broadly chronological order with paintings grouped together by school, ranging from the early Renaissance to modern times. Italian Baroque features mainly Mattia Preti and paintings by the Caravaggists Mattias Stomer, Jean Valentin de Boulogne and Guido Reni. Various 18th century paintings by Maltese artists are also displayed. These clearly portray the great Roman art influence on local artists.

The display of works from the 19th century reflects the history of when the Maltese islands became a British colony. The paintings mainly portray landscapes depicted in a naturalistic yet picturesque style. A more Romantic strain is to be seen in works by Giuseppe Calì. The highlight of this section is a watercolour of the Grand Harbour by J.M.W. Turner. This is the only Maltese landscape painting known to be his.

The first decades of the 20th century are represented by a nucleus of paintings from the Italian school and by a good number of bronze and plaster sculptures by the Maltese artist Antonio Sciortino. Paintings and sculptures by Maltese artists represent the post-war years, showing the beginnings of abstract art and works in mixed media.

The museum also exhibits a representative range of majolica pharmacy jars with works ranging from the 16th to the 19th century. These were mainly used by the Hospitaller Order in the Sacra Infermeria (pharmacy), as well as a varied display of silverware.

Article provided by Heritage Malta

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