Your MUŻA: Celebrating Francesco Zahra

03 May 2023 - 22 May 2023

MUŻA, the National Art Museum, is holding its first exhibition in a series of outreach and accessibility efforts where works from the national art collection will be temporarily loaned to different localities that bear relevance to a commemorative event, a special theme or an artist that is represented in the said collection.

The first exhibition, dedicated to Francesco Zahra, is being held at the Oratory of the Holy Crucifix in Senglea and will run from the 3rd until the 22nd of May.

Francesco Zahra died 250 years ago, in August 1773. Considered as one of the foremost Maltese artists of the 18th century, he was born, baptized, bred and artistically mentored in Senglea. Works from the national collection, directly and indirectly related to Zahra, have thus been taken out of the museum and brought temporarily to a locality bearing intimate ties with this artist’s life and times. The community of Senglea can now celebrate the talents and successes of this Baroque painter from the comfort of their own hometown.

The Oratory of the Holy Crucifix was chosen as the venue of the exhibition because the impressive stone carving and statuary adorning the walls are the work of Francesco Zahra’s father, Pietro Paolo, while four paintings that make up a cycle about the passion of Christ, also at the Oratory, are by Francesco Zahra himself.

Artefacts on display at the exhibition – titled Your MUŻA: Celebrating Francesco Zahra – include a painting by Gian Nicola Buhagiar, who was Francesco Zahra’s teacher; coins dating to the time of the Order of St John in Malta; a painting by Antoine Favray, who admired and briefly collaborated with Zahra; the artist’s baptismal record; a painting by Zahra that is usually on display at the Archbishop’s Curia; commission records of the Oratory’s sculptures and paintings; and Francesco Zahra’s self-portrait, showing him in his mid-40s at the peak of his artistic career.

In connection with this exhibition, Professor Keith Sciberras from the Department of Art and Art History within the Faculty of Arts of the University of Malta, will be giving a talk on Wednesday 10th May at 19:00 at the Senglea Parish Church. The talk, to be delivered in Maltese, will provide a brief background about Francesco Zahra and his importance in 18th century Maltese art, and will place the works at the Oratory of the Holy Crucifix as well as the exhibition in context.

The opening hours of the Oratory of the Holy Crucifix are from 07:00 till 11:30 and from 16:15 till 18:30.