Conservation project of d’Aleccio’s Great Siege wall paintings

The Department of Conservation and Built Heritage of the University of Malta and Heritage Malta are embarking on a partnership, under the auspices of the Office of the President of Malta, to conserve the cycle of wall paintings illustrating key events of the 1565 Great Siege of Malta located in the Grand Council Chamber of the Grand Master’s Palace in Valletta.

The Great Siege wall paintings were executed by the Italian artist, Matteo Perez d’Aleccio (1547-before 1616) who was specifically invited to come over to Malta in 1577 to depict the Great Siege events by Grand Master Fra Jean de Cassiere (1572-1581) himself. It should be recalled that the Grand Master was a Great Siege veteran himself. The Great Siege is depicted in 12 episodes interspaced by allegorical figures as a frieze decorating the upper part of the walls of the hall presenting the four-month siege in a narrative sequence.

D’Aleccio’s cycle is the most detailed and historically accurate visual document of the Siege itself. Drawn from many eyewitness accounts and written narratives, these paintings constitute an important historical document, serving as an enduring symbol in defining Maltese identity whilst also being a threshold in the history of art in Malta.

The cycle was partially conserved in 2001-2005 by the University of Dresden, but the project was not completed, leaving approximately one third of the paintings still in need of conservation.

This three year project will complete the work begun in the 2000s by using updated conservation methods that will stabilize the final third of the paintings. The conservation will remove surface soiling which currently darkens the wall paintings while improving the legibility of the cycle as a whole.

These conservation works will be managed and supervised by the professional wall painting conservators at the Department of Conservation and Built Heritage at the University of Malta as well as by professional conservators from Heritage Malta and elsewhere. The project includes the full participation of the graduates following the MSc in the Conservation of Decorative Surfaces at the Department of Conservation and Built Heritage. This is in fact an essential part of the Master’s programme being followed by these graduates. Heritage Malta curators will be advising on the Historical and Art Historical aspects of the project.

Details regarding the project to conserve the Perez d’Aleccio Great Siege wall painting cycle were given this morning during a press conference held at the Throne Room in the Grand Master’s Palace.

The conservation project is scheduled to begin in October 2018, with a proposed end date of July 2021. Costs involved over the coming three year period amount to €300,000.

The Research Trust of the University of Malta (RIDT) has been tasked with raising the necessary €300,000 required for this 3-year project and is appealing for philanthropic and Corporate Social Responsibility support from all sectors of society. The RIDT is pleased to note that the Gasan Foundation has already committed to support the project with an initial donation of €50,000, which will enable the project to kick off. Discussions with other entities who have already shown interest in supporting the project are underway.

 

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