The Malta Independent 13 June 2024, Thursday
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New book explores artistic exchange in the Mediterranean

Sunday, 9 June 2024, 09:05 Last update: about 7 days ago

Charlene Vella, senior lecturer in the Department of Art and Art History at the University of Malta, is proud to announce the release of her edited volume, Dynamics of artistic exchange in the Mediterranean in the late Medieval and Renaissance periods published by Midsea Books.

This compelling collection of essays was launched at the Aula Prima, University of Malta Valletta Campus on 21 May with the evening being chaired by Dr Mark Sagona, head of the Department of Art and Art History, and reviewed by Prof. Emanuel Buttigieg and Charles Dalli from the University's Department of History.

"I am thrilled to share this volume with the academic community and beyond. The Mediterranean has always been a vital nexus of exchange, and this book brings to light the incredible breadth and depth of those interactions. I am deeply grateful to all the contributors for their exceptional work and to the University of Malta for supporting this project," Dr Vella stated.

This volume brings together groundbreaking research by esteemed international and local scholars, offering fresh insights into the rich and complex networks of artistic exchange that shaped the Mediterranean region during these transformative eras.

Prof. Buttigieg highlighted in his review that "the key word in the title of this book is 'Exchange', which, whether employed as a noun or as a verb, implies reciprocal giving and receiving, forms of transactions, even in some instances, mutation, change". And that "the sea was a great barrier and a threat... Yet ultimately it was the super highway of civilization".

The book delves into the vibrant artistic interactions that occurred from the Late Middle Ages through to the Renaissance period, highlighting the Mediterranean as a dynamic crossroads of cultural and artistic exchange. The book is the outcome of two highly successful conferences convened by Charlene Vella at the University of Malta Valletta Campus in March 2018 and April 2019, with an anticipated third conference in April 2020 that was unfortunately cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

It features 12 meticulously researched papers by leading academics, including Mario Buhagiar, Michele Bacci, Peter Humfrey, Anthi Andronikou, Paola Vitolo, Donal Cooper, Keith Buhagiar, Kayoko Ichikawa, Martina Caruana, Miquel Àngel Herrero-Cortell and Borja Franco Llopis.

"It is truly positive to see a collected volume on art history published in Malta with two-thirds of the contributions sent in by scholars from different countries, reflecting yet again how much the subject has come of age academically in Malta too," Dalli remarked.

Dynamics of artistic exchange in the Mediterranean in the late Medieval and Renaissance periods has been lauded for its scholarly rigour and its contribution to the field of art history. The essays offer new perspectives on how art was created, exchanged and evolved across cultural boundaries, underscoring the Mediterranean's role as a melting pot of artistic innovation.

The key themes explored in the different papers are the role of the Mediterranean as a hub for artistic exchange; the influence of cultural interactions on the development of art and architecture in regions such as Spain, Rhodes, Cyprus, different cities in Sicily, Siena, Venice and Malta; case studies on notable artists and their works, including the artistic networks of the Antonello da Messina family and the impact of diplomatic, commercial and personal relationships on the flow of artistic ideas and materials across the Mediterranean.

He continued: "The papers in this volume trace trajectories of historical development across a Mediterranean world made up of leading capitals, such as Venice and Rome, Naples/Madrid and Constantinople/Byzantium/Istanbul, commercial centres like Valencia and Pisa as well as chief island port cities like Palermo, Messina and Catania. Artists, their patrons and their admirers moved across this richly woven human canvas, leaving traces of different sorts beyond the works of art for historians to uncover and unlock. Beyond this urban network there beckoned a wider world of islands Rhodes, Cyprus and Sicily - feature prominently in this collection."

Malta features in two of the essays too and it features again in a paper related to the Knights of the Order of St John in Rhodes and some traditions they tried to create there.


The conference is set to return to the University of Malta Valletta Campus early in 2025, that will hope to see new research being presented in Malta, the centre of the Mediterranean. 

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