The Malta Independent 4 December 2020, Friday

Inauguration of restoration work on six Francesco Zahra paintings

Saturday, 14 November 2020, 12:55 Last update: about 20 days ago

Though an investment of €40,000 from the Cultural Diplomacy Fund, six paintings by 18th Century artist Francesco Zahra have been restored. Francesco Zahra is best known as an 18th Century artist, who despite never leaving Malta, his paintings carry much historical and artistic value to the Maltese Islands.

Born in 1710, Zahra is considered as one of the most prominent artists of the 18th century in Malta. His style is unique and shows to have been influenced by Mattia Preti and Caravaggio. His works in Neopolitan Baroque, are scattered in many churches, museums and private collections in Malta.

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The paintings depict scenes from the Old Testament, and after being restored can now be enjoyed by the public at the Oratory of the Sacrament at the Archpriest’s Church of Zejtun.

The inauguration took place in the Parish Church of Santa Katerina in Zejtun by the Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister Carmelo Abela.  The inauguration of the restoration of the six paintings is taking place in the year when the Żejtun Parish is celebrating the 300th anniversary of the Completion and the Blessing of the Żejtun Parish Church.

In his speech, Minister Abela spoke about how this restoration project, which has been going on for about a year, was born when he was still serving as Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Promotion. According to the Minister, the aim of the Cultural Diplomacy programme is to build cultural and friendly bridges between the Maltese people and other nations. The programme also serves as a bridge between the works of Maltese artists, in this case that of Zahra, and the general public.

Abela recalled how the signing of the restoration agreement was held on June 3rd, 2019, at the Oratory of the Sacrament, where these paintings are held on a permanent basis and the dismantling of the six paintings started in September 2019. Abela expressed his delight that the restoration had led to the rediscovery of the glory of Francesco Zahra’s paintings.

Appreciation of art through conservation

Abela also spoke about how the project shows the appreciation of art though the conservation of works of art, and showcases the artistic talent of the Maltese and how this forms part of the Maltese identity.

Abela spoke about the restoration process and recalled how in the last year, these paintings had been removed from their original place,and taken to a specially equipped studio in the building of the Ministry for Foreign and European Affairs, at Palazzo Parisio. There, a team of restorers carried out the restoration work carefully after these works had suffered substantial damage over time and which therefore needed urgent restoration intervention.

Minister Carmelo Abela spoke about how this project will have several positive results such as the continuation of work to further enhance and promote the work of this prominent Maltese artist overseas, in this case in Italy. The paintings were to be exhibited in Rome, but this did not happen due to the coronavirus pandemic.

 

The restoration works were carried out under the management of the restorers Professor Santè Guido and Giuseppe Mantella, internationally renowned and respected restorers, following restoration works carried out both in Malta, Italy and the Vatican City State, among others of important artistic works at least in the last 25 years.

“This project by Zahra was born as an identity project of the Maltese culture. At the same time, it was born as a representative of culture that can and needs to be exported to the rest of Europe. Thus, the idea of cultural diplomacy saw in Francesco Zahra to be the ideal artist to represent Maltese art and culture in the rest of Europe,” said restorer Santè Guido in a video message.

With regard to the restoration process, he said, “The restoration was very interesting because the original colours of the paintings were recovered, stopping some colour loss – small corrosion elements. It also allowed them to rebuild, to close holes, and to repair these paintings”.

Minister Abela thanked the Permanent Secretaries of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and Finance, the Directors and employees involved in all this work. He also thanked Archpriest Fr. Nicholas Pace, Fr. Gino Gauci and all those who assisted in making this project a reality.

The scenes from the Old Testament which are displayed in these paintings are:

1. Melchizedek, King of Salem and Priest of El Elyon offering bread and wine.

2. Moses showing the Israelites in the desert the bread coming down from above.

3. The angel commanding Elijah to wake up and to eat bread and water.

4. Gideon preparing the bread and the meat on the rock as ordered by the angel.

5. Noah together with his wife and children offering a sacrifice after the flooding.

6. King David dancing infront of the Ark of the Covenant on its way to Jerusalem.

 

 

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