The Malta Independent 12 July 2024, Friday
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Fashion: the charm of past eras

Marie Benoît Sunday, 26 May 2024, 08:00 Last update: about 3 months ago

Have you ever visited Palazzo Falson, the historic house museum in Mdina? Its origins can be traced back to the first half of the 13th century and it has a most distinguished history. The Palazzo and its contents were restored by Fondazzjoni Patrimonju Malti and it opened its doors to the public in 2007.

If you have visited the palazzo already there is still another reason why you should do so again. This time to go and enjoy Patrimonju's latest offering Curious Beauty the brainchild of CEO and Creative Director Michael Lowell who left it in the hands of two former curators, Francesca Balzan and Caroline Tonna. His vision was to put on an an exhibition which focuses on fashion, dress and costume but in a different way.

The show has been described as 'an alternative fashion exhibition'. Why alternative? The curators comment: "Because it is playful and whimsical - it celebrates the joie de vivre of Olof Gollcher who was the last owner and resident of Palazzo Falson (until1962). He held a deep interest in Maltese heritage, art and research. We have built the concept of the exhibition around Gollcher's creative spirit and eye for beauty.
Previous temporary exhibitions, focused mainly on the decorative arts, were more contained in the so-called Orientation Room of the museum, but this exhibition is larger. It sprawls around the entire palazzo, creating contemporary art in assemblages of historic objects. The artefacts are displayed in unexpected ways against the backdrop of the richly decorated rooms of the museum. We are not dismantling the permanent display, which is a huge challenge, but this will enable the visitor to appreciate these artefacts while still having access to the museum's permanent collection."

Both Caroline and Francesca are art historians specialising in their respective areas of fashion and jewellery. They are not only knowledgeable but have an infectious enthusiasm. They also enjoy working together. "Each installation was purposely designed to harmonise with the permanent setup to spark curiosity, engagement and joy. We are showcasing over 200 items of fashion from various important public and private collections ranging from the eighteenth to the mid-twentieth century, including bodices, waistcoats, period dresses, stomachers, bags, shoes, hats, gloves, corsets and glasses. There is a collection of exquisitely embroidered ecclesiastical mitres creatively displayed in the museum chapel."

The creativity and imagination of Francesca and Caroline seem to have no end. Carton boxes were painted gold and used to display bags. Rather than purchase mannequins they used conservation grade paper to hand sculpt mannequin heads and arms, as well as skirts and breeches "to give added visual character to ornate bodies and waistcoats." It is a treat to be able to look so closely at the beautiful embroidery and let your imagination roam: who spent hours embroidering these garments? Who wore them? What were the lives of these people like?

I must mention the beautiful pieces of ganutell which decorated some of the costumes. The woman artist who made them has also done work for Hollywood I am told. I am afraid I have forgotten her name.

The exhibition closes on 16 June. It is probable that in our lifetime assembling all these beautiful objects from a variety of sources, many private collections, will not happen again. Don't miss this chance to feast your eyes in surroundings which are beautiful to start off with.

  • Friday 7 June, 10:30am - 12pm - Tote bag decorating workshop for children (13-15 y/o). Ticket price is €20 and €18 for Members of Palazzo Falson
  • Friday 14 June, 6:30pm - 8pm - Prosecco Tour by the Artistic Directors. Ticket price is €18 and €16 for Members of Palazzo Falson

Booking is essential. To register kindly send an email on [email protected] or call on 21454512.

Opening Hours:
Tuesday to Sunday from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM (last entry)

Extended Opening Hours:

Fridays from 10:00 AM to 7:00 PM (last entry)

Tickets can be purchased at Palazzo Falson

For further  information to


Photos: Lisa Attard

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