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Title: The magistral 'possesso' of Mdina through Favray's lens
Authors: Mallia, Danielle
Keywords: Favray, Antoine de, 1706-1798. Grand Master Philippe Villiers de l’Isle Adam Taking Possession of Mdina
Knights of Malta -- Malta -- History -- Sources
L’Isle Adam, Philippe Villiers de, 1464-1534
Malta -- History -- Knights of Malta, 1530-1798
Order of St John -- Malta -- History -- 16th century
Knights of Malta -- Malta -- History -- 16th century
Mdina (Malta) -- History -- Knights of Malta, 1530-1798
Mdina (Malta) -- In art
Malta -- Politics and government -- History -- 16th century
Order of St John -- Malta -- History -- Sources
Ceremonial entries -- Malta -- Mdina -- History -- 16th century
Issue Date: 2017
Publisher: University of Malta. International Institute for Baroque Studies
Citation: Mallia, D. (2017). The magistral 'possesso' of Mdina through Favray's lens. Journal of Baroque Studies, 2(1), 115-139
Abstract: Anyone with an interest in Maltese history is no doubt familiar with Antoine Favray’s painting Grand Master Philippe Villiers de l’Isle Adam Taking Possession of Mdina. This seminal piece of Hospitaller iconography sought to visually portray the start of the Order of St. John’s rule on the Maltese islands. It provides a snapshot of an event that in effect ushered the archipelago into a new era. It was a very public ceremony which underscored the power politics at play between the various authorities present on the island. One cannot underestimate how important these celebratory public occasions displaying wealth and power were for early modern Europeans. The use of grand public spectacles was possibly the most effective method to get messages across, to a wide array of people of varying backgrounds and literacy. Ceremonial entries into cities were exploited by municipalities and overlords alike across early modern Europe and Malta was no exception. The ceremonial entry, or possesso, of Mdina first staged by L’Isle Adam in 1530 and masterfully depicted by Favray was the first of a long series of possessi that were held during the Maltese Hospitaller period. This article will seek to consider the context of the possesso and the commissioning of the painting whilst also deconstructing these same elements. This will be done primarily through an analysis of the Libri Conciliorum (containing the records of the government of the Order) and the Libri Conciliorum Status (containing the records of state from 1620 onwards) as well as the records of the Università mainly the Mandati (orders to pay). It is only through an analysis of both the written word and Favray’s work that one can truly appreciate the civic ritual for what it was – an event that was designed to be a feast to the senses but also an exercise in subtle political manipulation.
Appears in Collections:JBS, Volume 2, No. 1 (2017)
JBS, Volume 2, No. 1 (2017)

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