The Malta Airport Foundation announces the restoration of 345-year-old Mattia Preti painting

The Malta Airport Foundation today announced its eighth major project, which will see it invest in the complete conservation and restoration of the painting by Mattia Preti Saints Roque, Blaise, Dominic and Nicholas of Tolentino interceding for the plague stricken.

This work of art depicting the eponymous four saints as well as other figures was executed by Mattia Preti (1613-1699) at the height of the plague outbreak in Malta in 1676. Measuring almost four metres high and over two metres wide, this painting is one of seven works of art by the Baroque artist to adorn the Parish Church of Saint Catherine of Alexandria in Żurrieq.

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“Through this project, the Malta Airport Foundation aims to preserve this painting for present and future generations as well as shine the spotlight on our villages – particularly Żurrieq – and what they have to offer in terms of culture, art and authentic experiences to both locals and tourists who visit Malta,” said Malta Airport Foundation Chairman Mr Josef Formosa Gauci, whilst highlighting that the Żurrieq parish church is considered a Grade 1 monument.

“Several interventions were carried out on this painting throughout the years, and upon examining this work of art, it was found to be heavily abraded and extensively overpainted to such an extent that, in some areas, the hand of Preti has been concealed. With the support of the Malta Airport Foundation, we aim to recover as much as is possible of Mattia Preti’s original paint layer,” said painting conservator Anthony Spagnol who is leading the conservation and restoration team.

The conservation and restoration process will entail the removal of discoloured varnish and layers of overpaint, including excessive highlights, to better reveal Mattia Preti’s original work and his artistic technique, and is slated for completion in the third quarter of 2022.

As part of the conservation and restoration project, the painting has been dismantled from its frame to allow for the equally important treatment of the verso to provide sufficient stability to the canvas support.  Another important part of this process is the thorough written and photographic documentation of the painting’s manufacturing technique, state of conservation, and past interventions, with an aim to leave as much textual and visual information as possible to future conservators and researchers.

The Malta Airport Foundation would like to thank the Archbishop’s Curia and the archpriest of Żurrieq Rev. Fr Karm Mercieca for the opportunity to contribute to the preservation of this work of art as well as the restoration and conservation team composed of Anthony Spagnol, Sephora Borg, and Jeanelle Lentini for accepting to take on this challenging project.

The Malta Airport Foundation, a non-profit organisation run by an independent Board of Administrators, was established in 2014 to invest in Maltese heritage and the environment with an aim to enhance Malta’s touristic product. More information about the Foundation’s projects is available here.

Published on: 22.10.2021