Great Siege Map

Produced in Venice by Giovanni Francesco Camocio, this is one of four maps that represents the final phases of the Great Siege of Malta in 1565.
This map, the third state, represents the arrival in September 1565 of the Gran Soccorso which consisted of the Catholic Armada. This was the turning point leading to the surrender of the Ottoman Turks to the Order of St John. These maps quickly spread the news of the goings-on of the Siege. They were derived from illustrated war reports sent from Malta.
The first, third and fourth states of the Great Siege map series form part of MUŻA’s Cartographic Collection, while the second state belongs to the Map Collection of the Faculty of Science at Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic.
These two institutions collaborated to successfully include these four maps in UNESCO’s International Memory of the World Register, an honour achieved in 2017.

Mystic Marriage of St Catherine of Alexandria

Filippo Paladini was an Italian late Mannerist artist from Tuscany who spent some years in Malta in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. He was engaged to carry out many artistic commissions including altarpieces for various churches as well as cycles of wall paintings for Verdala Palace.
The ‘Mystic Marriage of St Catherine’ is a quietly touching painting by Paladini. It depicts the young St Catherine receiving a wedding ring from the Christ Child, thus symbolizing her spiritual engagement with God. The elongated figures convey the artist’s Mannerist training, while the striking yet soft light suggests Caravaggio’s chiaroscuro, as the protagonists emerge from a dark void. The painting was donated to the National Collection in 2009 by Judge Giovanni Bonello and Dr Joseph and Mrs Anna Xuereb on the occasion of the 40th Anniversary of the death of Vincenzo Bonello (1891-1969), first curator of the Fine Arts Section within the then Valletta Museum.

Portrait of an unknown lady

This half-length portrait shows a woman in three-quarter profile view. Her dark eyes are intensely fixed on the viewer. She is dressed in black attire, with a white collar and cuffs. Her hair is tucked neatly underneath her black coif, which frames her pale face. The figure seems to occupy a space, a corner between two walls, where she casts a shadow. An exquisite tortoiseshell frame complements the painting. This work is one of the gems in a small section of the room ‘Mobility, Connections, Directions’ which is dedicated to paintings from Northern Europe.
Jan van Scorel was a Dutch painter, who spent a number of years in Italy, absorbing the style of Italian Renaissance painting, aspects of which he helped to introduce into the Dutch and Flemish Renaissance style. This immensely popular new style was adopted by many artists. This painting is, in fact, by a faithful follower of van Scorel.

Judith and Holofernes

Valentin de Boulogne was a French artist who, after his arrival at Rome in the early 17th century, fell heavily under the influence of Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio. Not only did he adopt Caravaggio’s tenebrist chiaroscuro but also took up the idea of representing the social underdogs that the famous Italian master loved to feature in his own paintings. At MUŻA, Le Valentin is represented by one of his finest works, the oil-on-canvas ‘Judith and Holofernes’ which blatantly reveals the deep mark Caravaggio had left on the French artist. It screams all features Caravaggesque: the bold chiaroscuro, the virtually tangible realism, the choreographed drama, and the characterisation in the three protagonists: Holofernes’ surprise, shock, fear and helplessness at the hands of Judith, determined to complete her act, and the attendant old maid who looks on with bold callousness.

The Risen Christ embracing the Cross

The elegant, athletic and monumental figure of the Risen Christ embraces the Cross, as he emerges, victorious but humble, from an ominous darkness. The figure of the Risen Christ is inspired by a marble statue by Michelangelo Buonarroti, at the church of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva in Rome. Guido Reni was a foremost Baroque artist who adopted a classical manner typical of the Bolognese School, that emerged under the influence of the Carracci, of which he became the dominant figure. There are a number of versions of this painting by Reni but this is considered to be the prototype. It is a classical Baroque interpretation of an idealised human figure.
Formerly belonging to the Grand Master’s Palace collection, this early 17th-century painting has enjoyed tremendous admiration over the centuries. It stands testimony to the erudite patronage of the Knights of the Order of St John.

The Charity of St Thomas of Villanova

The Maltese sculptor Melchiorre Cafà was admired as a brilliant virtuoso of the Roman Baroque. His talents even attracted the attention of the great sculptor and architect, Gian Lorenzo Bernini. He died in Rome at the young age of 31, leaving behind a number of unfinished commissions.
This work is a model for the ‘Charity of St Thomas of Villanova’ in the Pamphili family chapel in the Church of S. Agostino in Rome. The bozzetto was executed with great confidence and boldness, particularly as Cafà pushes the figures of Charity and the children outside the niche that frames the central figure of St Thomas of Villanova. The elongation of the figures and the fleeting movement in the drapery show unprecedented originality in the sculptor’s style and technique. He died before finishing the marble sculpture which was completed by Ercole Ferrata in whose bottega Cafà worked.

The Visit

Well-known mostly for his genre work and portraits of the elite, 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 important sources of information on what life was like for the upper social classes in 18th-century Malta.
This is one of the most well-known paintings by Favray. A noble woman visits a friend who is weaving lace. Another elegantly dressed lady announces the visit, while an infant plays with a small dog. The painting has considerable historical value as it shows the interior of a typical 18th-century house of the nobility, with walls covered in paintings and a traditional Maltese clock, while the women wear exquisite dresses, lace veils and the traditional għonnella that were popular at the time. It is a perfect snapshot, a moment in time, of days gone by.

The young St John the Baptist wearing the red tabard of the Order of St John

This is the work of ‘Il Cavaliere Calabrese,’ Mattia Preti, who took Malta’s art scene by storm during his residence on the island from the 1660s to 1699. He introduced the Italian Baroque style to the Maltese islands which determined artistic developments in the 18th century.
The lamb, the cross bearing the ‘Ecce Agnus Dei’ scroll and the camel-skin robe are all symbolic attributes that identify the figure as Saint John the Baptist. The fact that he wears the tabard with the white cross against a red background confirms the role of the Baptist as the patron saint of the Order. This painting is actually a self-portrait by Preti. He represents himself as the patron saint of the Order he himself was a member of to declare that this prestigious status redeemed a personal stigma his family name suffered in his younger past.