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Title: The ecclesiastical decorative arts in Malta 1850-1900 : style and ornament
Authors: Sagona, Mark
Keywords: Christian art and symbolism -- Malta -- History -- 19th century
Church decoration and ornament -- Malta -- History -- 19th century
Neoclassicism (Art) -- Malta
Renaissance revival (Art) -- Malta
Issue Date: 2014
Abstract: This thesis analyses the complex and multi-faceted context of the decorative arts for Roman Catholic churches in the small Mediterranean islands of Malta and Gozo in the second half of the nineteenth century. It critically discusses them within their rightful arthistorical international context. It focuses on style and ornament and engages with the artistic influences which shaped the nature of the design invention of a wide array of liturgical objets d’art, sacred vessels, vestments and movable church furnishings which were specifically commissioned for use during solemn liturgical functions held especially in honour of village patron saints as part of the increasingly popular village feasts. This research investigates the stylistic developments in the second half of the nineteenth century and places them within the context of changing artistic taste and style in Malta which started occurring at the turn of the nineteenth century. Consideration is also given to the older tradition in Malta to which the period under study was the natural heir. The artefacts under scrutiny are divided according to their stylistic timbre which is discussed not only in conjunction with the larger oeuvre of their designer or manufacturer but also within the larger European artistic scenario. It also analyses the stylistic idiosyncrasies of the ornamental language of works produced locally and compares them to what was being produced in the more cosmopolitan European cities. It thus explores the evolving stylistic situation from Neo-Classicism in the early to mid-century and the Revivalist and eclectic attitudes in the later years of this fifty-year period. The major remit of this study is the extent to which the ecclesiastical decorative arts in Malta reflected the larger continental artistic scenario and the ways how they responded to the major trends in design in the more important European centres like Rome, London and Paris. The story of this thesis is primarily that of the numerous works in precious metals, wood and embroidery which were produced both by important foreign silversmiths and designers, but also by a significant number of local masters who fluctuated according to their artistic upbringing and talent. The artistic character of the designer who invented the particular work is thus highlighted, placing him within the larger artistic scenario that informed his ornamental vocabulary. The study also tries to address the problems of invention and execution which are always present in the complex discussion of the decorative arts. Artistic quality and the nature of artistic invention play a fundamental role in this discussion, with a special emphasis on style and the application of ornament.
Description: PH.D.HIST.OF ART
Appears in Collections:Dissertations - FacArtHa - 2014

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