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Title: The knight artist Lucas Garnier : his role in mid-seventeenth century painting in Malta
Authors: Finger, Marie Claire
Keywords: Painting, Baroque -- Malta
Painting, French -- 17th century
Garnier, Lucas, 1600?-1672
Issue Date: 2015
Abstract: The aim of this dissertation is to analyse the French servant-at-arms of the Order of St John of Malta, Fra Lucas Garnier, as a case study of the knight artist concept within the Maltese seventeenth century context. Thus, the main objectives of the research undertaken are: to provide a detailed understanding of the seventeenth century social elevation to knighthood that some of the most talented artists of the period experienced, while concurrently taking into consideration fully-approved members of the nobility who were also both knights and artists; and to analyse the life and works of Lucas Garnier through a critical study of the mechanics of patronage, his technical and stylistic competence and his reputation in relation to his membership with the Order of St John. On a larger scale, this study is based on the connection that once existed between artistic skills and knighthood during the Baroque period. New information regarding this subject that was brought to light during the past couple of years was greatly beneficial to this study, and was an important basis on which consequent research with the aim of providing a detailed analysis of the knight artist concept was based. Lucas Garnier, the painter on whom this study of the knight artist concept is primarily based, was also largely unstudied. Although he should have been the most important up-and-coming artist during the mid-seventeenth century, the artistic period that directly succeeded his death was so unfavourable due to Mattia Preti’s arrival that he faded into oblivion before his artistic contributions were even appreciated properly. The fact that his membership as a servant-at-arms with the Order of St John would have contributed to his artistic success was also not given due attention, and the connections that were made between his role as a painter and the public image he would have held as a knight artist were few. Due to the nature of the topic, the point of departure for the study is mainland Italy, more specifically Rome, where Garnier seems to have been amid the evolving artistic Baroque grandeur before arriving in Malta a short while later. The Maltese artistic context is also duly analysed, especially the inferior native style that Garnier would have witnessed upon his arrival. Additionally, the statutes of the Order of St John are also carefully defined since they provide the background structure of the knight artist concept which is then consequently analysed and discussed with numerous case-studies. Garnier’s biography, most of which is being presented here for the first time, is an integral part of the study. Although descriptive in essence, it serves as an important link between the knight artist concept and Garnier’s artistic activity on the island. Subsequently, Garnier’s role as an artist is also discussed in detail. Due to close to nothing being known about his early training, the analysis is focused on the nature of his commissions, and on his works for Malta. And finally, the catalogue entries added at the end include the full details of each commission. Research for this dissertation, especially with regards to the life of Lucas Garnier, was primarily carried out in two main archives; the Notarial Archives and the Archives of the Order of Malta, both in Valletta. Despite the accessibility of these archives, the onset of research proved to be quite daunting, especially since existing information provided few (and sometimes inaccurate) directions in which to initially proceed. However, my perseverance led to a number of new findings which then became important focal points in the study. Due to the fact that all of Garnier’s known works were produced for churches, the tracing of archival documents relating to each commission was slightly more complicated. Not all Church archives were made accessible, and those that were, were often in a state of deterioration that made the handling of the documents rather challenging. Yet, the consultation of pastoral visitation reports narrowed down some recurring inaccuracies in dating, and confirmed other minor details that facilitated the reconstruction of a timeline of works. A number of hindrances were encountered throughout the course of this study. The first one was the numerous lacunae found in seventeenth century archives, which meant that when primary sources proved impossible to trace, I had to rely on a number secondary sources that were not always correct or complete. Additionally, as mentioned above, the state of some of these documents meant that many of them were difficult to decipher and understand, and their meaning was not always very straightforward. The study of paintings was also hampered by numerous problems. The most distressing issue was the condition in which the majority of Lucas Garnier’s works are in. Apart from the fact that many of them are not in a good state of conservation, an even larger number are over painted in several areas. Some of these have so many additional layers of paint and yellowing varnish that an appropriate complete stylistic analysis was impossible to carry out. Another minor issue was the location of the works. Since most of them are still in their original altar, the proper visual inspection on site was at times slightly hampered due to the height at which the work was suspended and the lack of proper lighting. Although I have managed to present a lot of new information in this dissertation, it is beyond doubt that much more exists. Much about Lucas Garnier’s early life prior to his arrival in Malta remains unknown, and other works of art are yet to be discovered. Despite the fact that the archives consulted were exhausted within the limited amount of time during which my research was carried out, it is certain that a good amount of information has not yet been unearthed, especially at the Notarial Archives. Ideally, the references given here would be the point of departure for future research on the artist. Ultimately, this dissertation finds its fulcrum in shedding light on both the knight artist concept and on Lucas Garnier as being indispensable to the study of seventeenth century artistic patronage and developments in Malta. Previously inadequately understudied, their inclusion into this context allows the reconsideration of the period by providing a new perspective which does not only contribute to the study of history of art in Malta, but also to the Baroque international context as a whole.
Description: M.A.HIST.OF ART
Appears in Collections:Dissertations - FacArtHa - 2015

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