Art up Close

Dr Mark Sagona


1 December 2021

Born in Malta to Italian parents fleeing from Bourbon Naples, Giuseppe Calì came to dominate Maltese Art between 1880 and 1920. A virtuoso by birth, he was hugely gifted with a talent for inventiveness, expressiveness and narrative, and, above all, speed of execution. He unsurprisingly broke with Maltese tradition to study in Naples, where members of his family had enjoyed remarkable fame. Naples was an extraordinary influence on the young artist: he was gripped by the works of Giuseppe Mancinelli (1813-75), Filippo Palizzi (1818-99) but most especially by those of the great Domenico Morelli (1823-1901). This was the eclectic recipe which he introduced on his return to Malta, transforming forcefully the local artistic climate. This lecture discusses the character and context of Calì’s art as it moved from Neapolitan verismo, to glimpses of the history paintings of Paul Delaroche (1787-1856), opening up to the sweetness of the works of Pietro Gagliardi (1809-1890) in Malta, morphing concurrently towards a Baroque Revival ethos. Giuseppe Calì was truly a product of his own Romantic, eclectic times.


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