Two Renaissance paintings survive in the Franciscan Observant church of Ta’ Ġieżu in Rabat. Both paintings were the central images of the main altarpiece of the church from the early sixteenth century until 1785. Yet, the altarpiece consisted of another fifteen paintings and an elaborately gilded framework, making it the largest Renaissance artwork ever created for the Maltese islands.
This altarpiece and its significance within the context of Maltese art scene will be the theme of a public lecture by Dr Charlene Vella at the Mdina Cathedral Museum on Friday the 17th of June.
The public lecture themed “Malta’s Renaissance Masterpiece by Antonio de Saliba” is being organised by the Malta Historical Society and will start 18.30hrs.
“The Renaissance reached Malta in the 1470s with a link with two major Sicilian Renaissance workshops: that of Domenico Gagini for sculpture and Antonello da Messina for painting,” explains Dr Charlene Vella whose long-anticipated book “In the Footsteps of Antonello Da Messina – The Antonelliani between Sicily and Venice”, was officially launched last month.
“The significance of this altarpiece stems from the fact that it also linked with a string of Franciscan Observant commissions that Antonio de Saliba executed for other Franciscan churches that fell under the Franciscan province of Messina, the birthplace of Antonio de Saliba, but also of his uncle, Antonello da Messina, who was himself intimately linked to the Franciscan Observant Order. Antonio de Saliba had worked in Venice for c. 15 years before setting up his workshop in Messina,” added Dr Vella.
Dr Charlene Vella is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Art and Art History at the University of Malta. She obtained her Undergraduate and Master’s degrees in Art History from the University of Malta and has obtained her PhD in Art History from the University of Warwick in 2016 where she was awarded a full scholarship under the Chancellor’s International Scholarship.
Dr Vella leads several research projects in which she oversees the diagnostic testing, conservation, and restoration interventions on Renaissance Art works in Malta and regularly curates exhibitions of contemporary art.