Through its Cultural Diplomacy Programme, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and Trade Promotion will be funding the restoration of a set of six 18th century paintings housed in the Oratory of the Blessed Sacrament at the Żejtun Parish Church.
The ‘Six Stories of the Old Testament’ by Francesco Zahra (1717-1773), an eminent painter of 18th-century Malta, will be restored by renowned Italian conservator-restorers of works of art, Sante Guido and Giuseppe Mantella.
Considered to be Malta’s most important native painter of the mid-18th century, Francesco Zahra has a unique style which was influenced by prominent Italian painters such as Mattia Preti and Caravaggio.
The restoration agreement was signed at the Oratory of the Blessed Sacrament by Fiona Formosa, Permanent Secretary at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and Trade Promotion; Nicholas Pace, Archpriest of Żejtun; and Sante Guido, in the presence of Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Promotion Carmelo Abela.
Minister Abela pointed out that the aim behind the ministry’s Cultural Diplomacy Fund is to use culture to build bridges between Malta and other countries, as well as to enhance relations on the people-to-people level. He announced that once restored to their former glory, the paintings will be showcased in Italy, emphasising the special cultural ties between Malta and Italy, evidenced by centuries of a continuous flow of art and artists between the two countries. The works of art will possibly also be exhibited in other European capitals.
“Malta is blessed with a vast and rich cultural heritage”, Minister Abela remarked. “It is our duty to not only conserve this heritage but to also promote it and share it with others.”
The minister also explained that the restoration of the paintings will be undertaken in a specially constructed studio that will be located in the central courtyard of Palazzo Parisio, the ministry’s head office in Merchants Street, Valletta. The general public will have access to this studio and hence will have the opportunity to follow the restoration process.
Also present for the signing ceremony were, amongst others: Doris Abela, Mayor of Żejtun; Fr Gino Gauchi; Neville Aquilina, Director-General Global Issues, International Development & Economic Affairs; and Sharon Scicluna, Assistant Director of the Cultural Diplomacy Unit.