The Malta Independent 17 July 2024, Wednesday
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Grand Master’s Palace tapestries start two-year restoration journey in Belgium

Monday, 17 June 2024, 13:52 Last update: about 29 days ago

Heritage Malta announced the commencement of a two-year restoration project for the tapestries of the Grand Master’s Palace in Valletta. The iconic tapestries, a treasure in themselves, have adorned the Tapestry Chamber for over three centuries and will undergo meticulous restoration at the De Wit Royal Manufacturers in Belgium.

The tapestries were commissioned from the illustrious Gobelins Manufactory in Paris by Grand Master Ramon Perellos y Roccaful in 1708 as part of his ‘gioia’ – a gift to the Order upon his election. They depict exotic scenes of flora and fauna from newly discovered lands in the preceding century and have been treasured inside the Grand Master’s Palace since 1710, following their arduous journey and near loss to corsairs.

They are the only full surviving set made from the original cartoons, known as ‘Tenture des Indes’, which also feature in the French Royal Palace of Versailles, available for general viewing. Although preserved exceptionally well, especially due to their limited exposure to light and previous restorations over the centuries, this project at the De Wit Royal Manufacturers, renowned for their expertise in tapestry conservation, aims to clean, consolidate and conserve the tapestries for the future.

The 10 large tapestries, each weighing approximately 40 kilograms, along with six window panels and a door panel, were delicately removed from the Palace and transported to Belgium during the last week of May. The conservation process will include the removal of old linings, thorough cleaning using specialized vacuum and aerosol suction techniques to prevent dye bleeding, and the consolidation of weakened silk areas with custom-dyed fabrics.

During the tapestries' absence, Heritage Malta will conduct restoration work on the Tapestry Chamber itself, also known as the Grand Council Chamber of the Palace, ensuring it is prepared to safely and securely host the tapestries upon their return. The room will see upgrades including the restoration of its unique thatched roof, the elaborate painted soffit, the painted frieze and repairs to the flooring and support beams.

Noel Zammit, CEO of Heritage Malta, emphasized the importance of this project: "This restoration not only preserves the tapestries but also enhances the entire chamber, ensuring that this heritage is protected for future generations. It also takes the agency’s largest project to date into a new phase.” The tapestries are expected to return to Malta by mid-2026, when they will be reinstalled in their newly restored home, ready to continue captivating visitors with their splendour.

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