The Malta Independent 24 September 2023, Sunday
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Mastru Xandru’s Crucifix to be restored through BOV’s support

Saturday, 22 October 2022, 17:02 Last update: about 12 months ago

A 19th century crucifix attributed to Alessandro Farrugia is being restored through the support of Bank of Valletta.

Xandru Farrugia (known as Mastru Xandru) was born in Zejtun on 2 February 1791. A student of renowned sculptor, Mariano Gerada, Farrugia left a number of treasures, mostly carved in wood or stone, in our churches all over the island, as well as stone statues as street shrines, particularly in Zejtun.

Found at the St Barbara Church (tal-Kapuccini) in Kalkara, the sculpture is dated to 1851 and is carved out of wood and polychromed. The crucifix depicts Christ's sacrifice, commitment, redemption and most of all love, however, this particular work of art is much less grotesque and less focussed on the injuries inflicted on the body of Jesus Christ.

Charles Azzopardi, head CSR Department at Bank of Valletta met Fr Miguel Zammit OFM CAP and Maria Grazia Zenzani and Valentina Lupo from Atelier Del Restauro when the crucifix was being transported to the restorers' laboratory.

"Preliminary studies show that over the years, the statue was overpainted several times, which has altered the aesthetical qualities of the work of art. At least two layers of overpainting were identified although it is very probable that more layers are present," said Zenzani. "We will subject the crucifix to further observations and scientific investigations of the polychromy and its stratigraphy to better understand the extent of overpainting present as well as the manufacturing technique employed by the artist to ensure the optimal restoration techniques."

"The St Barbara church and adjacent convent were built on a piece of land donated by Guzeppi Abela after a request for a second convent and church in Birgu (Kalkara) was made by the Confraternity, and after the money was raised, work on the building commenced in 1736," said Fr Zammit. "The crucifix is one of the most beautiful effigies in the convent and the studies by the conservators will be able to determine if the crown of thorns currently on the sculpture is original to the sculpture or a later addition as widely believed."

This restoration initiative forms an integral part of the BOV's ESG strategy, with the bank always at the forefront in projects aimed to preserve the identity of our unique Maltese community," said Charles Azzopardi. "We are looking forward to witnessing the artist's genius once the overpainting of the crucifix is removed and the preservation will enable future generations to appreciate the work in a better state."

Among the works carved by Xandru one should mention the titular processional statues of the Annunciation at Tarxien (1829), St Mary at Mqabba (1837) and St Paul at Safi (1844). One of his masterpieces is the Good Friday statue of Jesus scourged at the Pillar (1844), carved fully from one piece of wood, found at Zejtun. Xandru passed away on 4 December 1871.


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