Conservation of the Nymphaeum, Argotti Botanical Gardens, Floriana, Malta
The 18thcentury Nymphaeum at the Argotti Botanical Gardens, Floriana, is a unique, highly significant part of the Maltese cultural heritage.
The Argotti Botanical Gardens and the Nymphaeum form part of the wider complex of the Argotti Gardens, where already in the 18th century villas and gardens belonging to Knights of the Order of St John were in existence. In the 1770s the Knight Argote y Guzmán combined the different properties into a single estate and garden. The Nymphaeum itself is a small but significant domed structure made of local limestone, and internally decorated with lavish mosaics composed of red coral, seashells, calcite crystals and pebbles which form geometric and figurative patterns, including significantly the Coat of Arms of Knight Argote y Guzmán.
Due to the nature of the decoration, with its variety of materials, and to intrinsic problems such as moisture and salts in the limestone structure, the conservation of the Nymphaeum is an extremely complex case. Since 2014 the Department has carried out a number of detailed and targeted studies to understand the causes and the mechanisms of deterioration, and to pave the way for a conservation project. These included environmental studies, research on soluble salts, desalination and sacrificial plasters, and emergency treatments carried out on site.
The Argotti Gardens have been recently refurbished and reopened to the public.