The Malta Independent 21 October 2021, Thursday

Giuseppe Cali’ Apse painting undergoing restoration

Malta Independent Sunday, 10 June 2012, 00:00 Last update: about 8 years ago

The monumental painting by the talented and prolific Maltese artist Giuseppe Calì (1846-1930), that decorates the main apse of Stella Maris parish church in Sliema is undergoing extensive restoration.

The painting, which was executed in the artist’s romantic academic style, is entitled The Virgin of Stella Maris with Pope Leo XIII and is signed and dated 1889 in the bottom right-hand corner. In 2011, the parish priest, Fr Joe Bartolo, entrusted ReCoop Ltd with the restoration, which is being directed by conservator Roderick Abela.

The large scaffolding erected in the choir and apse was installed by the Resources and Rural Affairs Ministry.

During World War II, the church – together with this painting – suffered severe damage. The painting subsequently underwent three ‘restorations’. The first was an urgent intervention undertaken by Candido Giglio. It was again retouched by Giorgio Preca and then in 1972 it was extensively repainted by Raphael Bonnici Calì, who also documented his intervention on the lower left-hand side of the painting. The large-scale work, with the circumference at its base measuring approximately 13m, is executed in oils on a white preparation layer. The technique is typical of Calì’s mural works, consisting of bold brush work, high impastos on a harsh preparation layer. However, due to the extensively re-painted areas as a result of the restoration carried out by Raphael Bonnici Calì, the work initially spoke a different language to that of Giuseppe Calì’s original work.

Before the start of the current conservation programme, the painting displayed several examples of deterioration such as cracks, areas where the paint had either become detached or was flaking, dust accumulation and several visibly re-painted areas. The conservation treatment included documentation, structural consolidation and the cleaning and integration of the preparation and paint layers. The gilt frame surrounding the apse is also undergoing restoration.

Earlier this year, ReCoop Ltd concluded complex conservation treatment on the beautiful late 16th-century titular painting of the Virgin and Child with Saints which also adorned the apse and which will be re-hung in its original place, once the apse restoration is completed.

  • don't miss