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Title: The artistic development of the holy water basin in the Maltese Islands
Authors: Cassar, Maria
Keywords: Holy water fonts -- Malta
Christian art and symbolism -- Malta
Churches -- Malta
Issue Date: 2013
Abstract: This dissertation attempts to study the artistic development of the holy water basin over the centuries in churches and chapels across the Maltese islands. The subject is introduced in Chapter 1 which traces the purpose and use of holy water in the Christian and other religions, delves into the evolution of rituals associated with the use of holy water in different religions and how these have been incorporated around vessels or fonts at places of worship. The development of shapes, styles and symbolism on holy water basins is also examined in this chapter (the terms 'font' and 'stoup' are used throughout to describe the particular artistic presentation rendered to the vessel). It also sets the tone for the following chapters which cover, in turn, the chronology of different art periods and the influences which European artists and works have had on the local scene. Hence, Chapter 2 tackles the Late Medieval to Early Modern period (1300 - late 1590s), Chapter 3 the Baroque period (1600 - late 1790s), Chapter 4 the 19th to the early 20th Centuries (1800 - late 1920s) while Chapter 5 looks at Modern and Contemporary works (1930s to date). A key, underlying theme of the dissertation is the importance of the artistic evolution of fonts and stoups in Europe and their possible stylistic influences on Maltese works. In fact each of Chapters 2 to 5 follows a pattern where first prominent works for the period are examined and, as much as possible, accompanied by a brief discussion of the artist, then leading on to the Maltese and Gozitan landscape. The concluding Chapter 6 summarizes the findings of the dissertation and proposes areas for further research and future study. Tables of complementary information are presented in Appendix I while Appendix II lists plates and illustrations (PL) referred to in the body of the research, mainly of fonts and stoups in Europe which transverse across the respective artistic periods and correspond with the chapters. The dissertation is supported by a detailed inventory of holy water fonts and stoups from a large cross-section of churches, chapels and museums in the Maltese Islands. About 150 sites were visted in order to arrive at a fairly wide and representative sample of works and 116 were ultimately selected for a study and detailed catalogue entry (CE), which includes type, style, material, dimensions, description and, when available, artist and dating information. Because the subject has been studied only very incidentally and is marked by a dearth of primary sources, with occasional secondary material, a wide range of research and study methods were employed. These include: a. General literature review, ranging from primary to secondary, from archival documents and papers in parish offices to books, journals, web-sites and all the way to festa booklets; b. Reference and consultation with electronic library sources; c. Visits to churches and chapels in the Maltese Islands and, selectively, in Europe; d. Interviews and referrals to: i. priests, rectors and custodians of churches and chapels; ii. church and art historians; iii. academics in the fields of architecture, art and liturgy; and iv. artists, sculptors, marblers and merchants. As noted above, the conduct of the research for this work was severely constrained by a lack of available primary sources. Indeed, a recurring drawback was the lack of documented information that could be retrieved from archives or parish offices. In the vast majority of cases, rectors, priests and archivists, when visited, would shrug their shoulders and admit that nothing much used to be kept on fonts and stoups. This limitation meant that extensive reference had to be made to secondary sources, interviews, studies of artistic styles as well as of other works of art being executed in Maltese churches and chapels in the relevant periods.
Description: B.A.(HONS)HIST.OF ART
Appears in Collections:Dissertations - FacArtHa - 2013

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