The Department of Conservation & Built Heritage of the University of Malta is currently working on the conservation of the wall paintings cycle of the Great Siege by Perez d’Aleccio, located in the Grand Council Chamber of the Grand Master’s Palace in Valletta. The project, started in October 2018 and planned to be concluded in 2021, is in partnership with Heritage Malta, and under the auspices of the Office of the President of Malta.
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 by Grand Master Jean de la Cassiere (1572-1581) to depict the 1565 Great Siege events. The Grand Master was a Great Siege veteran himself. The cycle, a frieze decorating the upper part of the walls of the hall, depicts the four-month siege in a narrative sequence, in 12 episodes interspaced by allegorical figures.
D’Aleccio’s cycle is the most detailed and historically accurate visual document of the Siege. Drawn from many eyewitness accounts and written narratives, these paintings constitute a very important document, from both a historical and art historical point of view. Such paintings serve as an enduring symbol in defining Maltese and European 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. The project carried out by the Department of Conservation and Built Heritage will complete the work begun in the 2000s by using the most updated conservation methods. The conservation will stabilise the wall paintings and remove surface soiling which currently darkens them, while improving the legibility of the cycle as a whole.
Such project will be managed and supervised by the professional wall painting conservators of the Department of Conservation and Built Heritage at the University of Malta as well as by professional conservators from Heritage Malta. The project includes the full participation of the students following the MSc in the Conservation of Decorative Architectural Surfaces at the Department of Conservation and Built Heritage. This is in fact an essential part of their Master’s programme. Heritage Malta curators will be advising on the historical and art historical aspects of the project.
The conservation of the Great Siege wall paintings by the Department of Conservation and Built Heritage is part funded by Gasan Foundation and Planning Authority. is running in the frame of the major conservation works currently carried out at the Grand Master’s Palace. Such overall €10 million project, led by Heritage Malta, is partly funded by the European Regional Development Fund.
Project Co-ordinators: Prof. JoAnn Cassar, Jennifer Porter
Project conservators: Dr Chiara Pasian, Roberta De Angelis, Greta Acquistapace (RSOII), Anthony Spagnol (Heritage Malta), M.Sc. Decorative Architectural Surfaces students.
Supported by: RIDT (Research Trust) University of Malta and Gasan Foundation and Planning Authority.