The Malta Airport Foundation unveils a newly conserved and restored Mattia Preti painting in Żurrieq

The Malta Airport Foundation on Wednesday unveiled a newly conserved and restored painting by prolific Baroque artist Mattia Preti during an event held at the Church of Saint Catherine of Alexandria in Żurrieq.

Executed in 1676 as Malta was ravaged by an outbreak of the plague, Saints Roque, Blaise, Dominic and Nicholas of Tolentino Interceding for the Plague Stricken is one of seven works of art by Mattia Preti found inside the church. The 17th-century artwork had been heavily overpainted during previous interventions, with most of Mattia Preti’s original paint layer having been concealed. Additionally, the reverse side of the painting was found to be in a poor state of conservation which was impacting the pictorial side of the artwork in some places.

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                 Saints Roque, Blaise, Dominic and Nicholas of Tolentino Interceding for the Plague Stricken

Guests at yesterday’s event, including Minister for National Heritage, the Arts and Local Government Hon. Owen Bonnici, representatives of the Archdiocese of Malta and parishioners, were taken through the 10-month-long conservation and restoration process by the team of paintings conservators the Malta Airport Foundation entrusted with this project.

Malta Airport Foundation Chairman Josef Formosa Gauci thanked the team for accepting to take on the project and executing it with skill and verve, thereby supporting the Foundation’s mission of safeguarding the Maltese Islands’ heritage, particularly in the airport’s neighbouring villages.

Anthony Spagnol, Sephora Borg and Jeanelle Lentini highlighted the main stages of the intervention which included extensive cleaning, the treatment of the verso, and the adherence of a new canvas to provide the painting, which measures almost four metres high and over two metres wide, with adequate stability and support. On the pictorial side, infilling and retouching were carried out in areas where paint had been lost, with the intervention being finished off with the application of varnish.

Lead conservator Anthony Spagnol explained that the intervention had ultimately restored the painting’s precise perspective, which had been somewhat distorted by previous interventions, allowing viewers to better appreciate Mattia Preti’s original artwork and future researchers to study this painting in more detail.

In his speech, Administrative Secretary of the Archdiocese of Malta Michael Pace Ross highlighted the importance of viewing such works of art from the combined perspective of religion, history and art, in order to fully appreciate the artistic treasures that enrich our churches.

At the end of the event, Anthony Spagnol presented copies of the conservation and restoration report to Żurrieq archpriest Fr Karm Mercieca and Malta Airport Foundation Chairman Josef Formosa Gauci. This report details the painting’s manufacturing technique, its state of conservation, and the interventions carried out on it with the aim of leaving as much textual and visual information as possible to future conservators and researchers.


Published on: 11.08.22