June 2022

Learning about Old Master Drawings through the Malta National Art Collection

What are Old Master Drawings? What can we learn from them about art history and artistic practices? How do we analyse them? How were they used? These are questions that this digital project will be answering through an online platform accessible to all members of the public. This project, supported by the Getty Foundation’s The …

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Fire on the Tiber

Claude Joseph Vernet was a leading exponent of French 18th-century landscape and marine painting. In 1734, he travelled to Rome to study the works of landscape and maritime painters.
This scene shows a raging fire on the river Tiber, probably painted while Vernet was in Italy. The brilliant colours of the fire and its reflection are effectively rendered. In the foreground are survivors from the moored ship being rescued. Buildings on the bank of the river are lit up by the light of the fire. The billowing flames and smoke and the agitated waters can be easily imagined, and the roaring of the fire and the shouting of the people almost ring in your ears.

Mary-Anne eating grapes

Edward Caruana Dingli depicted prominent figures, nobles and politicians whilst on the other hand characterizing Maltese folklore with his bright watercolour drawings. He is considered to be one of Malta’s prominent and leading artists of the 20th century. Caruana Dingli started his artistic career at the age of 37, after leaving his job at the civil service. This led Caruana Dingli to teach and later be the Director of the Government School of Art in Valletta where he taught several prominent artists of the 20th century.
‘Marie-Anne eating Grapes’ catches one’s attention with the fresh element of the paint brush and visible brush strokes. The colour palette further enhances the information the artist wants to evoke. The hues of the dark and bright colours show the natural sun rays hitting the woman’s skin, garment and the scene in general. This brush technique is usually considered Impressionist and was introduced in the 19th century in France. Apart from the excellent brush technique, Caruana Dingli manages to evoke a sense of happiness and peace in the painting through the facial expressions of the sitter, making the viewer feel a part of Marie-Anne’s delight.

Ave Maria Triptych

Anton Inglott started his studies at the Government School of Art whilst also attending nude classes at the Studio Artistico Industriale which then led Inglott to further his studies at the Regia Accademia in Rome.
One of Inglott’s most important and popular pieces within the National Collection is the oil-on-panel ‘Ave Maria Triptych’ (or The Nativity Triptych) which was produced during the Second World War. This architectural-like triptych shows a Nativity scene on the right-hand side, the Virgin Mary in the central panel and the Annunciation on the left-hand panel. This arched window-like frame is considered to be an artwork on its own. The ‘Ave Maria Triptych’ presents Inglott’s maturity in his field. Here, the artist encompasses all his research and studies in Rome by using the beam of light as a major source to stage the elongated elegant figures in this composition, as well as his mastery in colour and narration.
This work follows a much-stylised equilibrium where all the figures are simplified in a way to deliver what is necessary in a minimalist manner. The figures are rather elongated, especially the figures of the angels. Both foreground and background are kept decoratively minimal which makes the viewer look directly at the figures.