May 2022

Portrait of the artist Giuseppe Calì

Edward Caruana Dingli practically dominated the 20th-century art scene thanks to his versatile artistic talents and his network of anglophile connections. There are many portraits, landscapes, folkloristic scenes and genre works to his name, which were highly appealing for their naturalistic flair heavily doused with Romantic nostalgia and idealism.
This engaging portrait of Giuseppe Calì (1846-1930), a most popular Maltese artist of the 19th- and early 20th-century, was executed by Caruana Dingli, who was his former student. Seated at his easel, palette and paintbrush in hand, pausing and posing for this sitting, Calì conveys that quiet grandeur and seasoned sagesse that only a dedicated student like Caruana Dingli would have been able to pick up about his teacher, whom he loved, highly admired and honoured through this portrait.

Portrait of Grand Master Pinto

Well-known mostly for his genre work and portraits of the elite and the eminent, the French artist, Antoine Favray resided permanently in Malta, save for a 9-year stay in Constantinople, after his studies in Rome. His paintings are considered to be important sources of information on what life was like for the upper social classes in 18th-century Malta.
Favray portrays the longest serving Portuguese Grand Master Emmanuel Pinto de Fonseca with all the pomp and circumstance fitting for a king. His ceremonial robe adorned by heavily-flowing ermine fur, his fashionable wig and his conceited stance, together with the sumptuous furnishings amidst which he poses, reveal his aspiration for aristocracy as his gesture, indicating the closed monarchical crown, testifies. This is a typical 18th-century portrait executed in the style of the ‘grande manière’ or grand manner.

Still Life with an Array of Flowers in a Basket

This still life shows an arrangement of roses, peonies, tulips and other flowers in and around a wicker basket set on the ground. It belongs to a popular genre of 18th century Venetian painting, that of floral still lifes.
This work probably comes from the workshop of the obscure painter Francesco Duramano. Little is known about him except that he was trained by his mother but quickly surpassed her in skill. He was an extremely prolific and popular artist in Venice, and he painted exclusively still lifes with floral arrangements. His works were spread across Europe, probably bought by travellers who passed through Venice. This still life brings to the fore the focus on colour and varied brushwork of the Venetian school. In history, and in painting, different flowers have always had symbolic meanings. Peonies stand for bashfulness, white roses for purity and virtue, pink roses for grace, red roses for true love, while the yellow tulip symbolises happiness and love.