Professor Keith Sciberras, Head of the Department of Art and Art History at the University of Malta, discussed the preliminary results of his ongoing research on the Mannerist painter Matteo Perez d'Aleccio, who painted the titular altar painting of the 'Shipwreck of St Paul' for St Paul's Shipwrecked Church in Valletta in c.1579/80.
He explained the historical context why Perez D'Aleccio was invited to Malta, mainly to execute in fresco the large cycle depicting the Great Siege for the Grand Council Chamber at the Palace in Valletta. The painting of St Paul Shipwrecked, he explained, was originally located in the first church of St Paul in Valletta, located where the Jesuit Church today stands. It was moved when, in the 1590's, the Church of St Paul Shipwrecked made way for the Jesuits and new plans for a church on the present location at St Paul's street were laid. The patronage of Bishop Tommaso Gargallo was significant for this move.
Professor Sciberras discussed the importance of Perez D'Aleccio within the context of fresco painting in Rome during the late 1560's and the 1570's and put forward new considerations for the artist's works with the painters Livio Agresti and the celebrated Giorgio Vasari. He compared D'Aleccio's works at the Sistine Chapel with the paintings of Michelangelo and further analysed the frescos that he executed for the Oratorio del Gonfalone in Rome before coming to Malta. Professor Sciberras marked the altar painting of St Paul Shipwrecked as one of the most important altar paintings depicted in Malta in the late 16th century.
He encouraged its restoration but also strongly underpinned the importance of art-historical scholarship in restoration and conservation programmes. He stressed that many paintings are at present being restored without proper art-historical scholarship and comparative analysis. He singled out the large painting representing the Assumption and Coronation of the Virgin at St John's Co-Cathedral, that he attributes to Perez D'Aleccio, as being very ineptly restored. Similarly, he underlined his frustration at how St John's Museum is nowhere near to its completion date (original planned for 2018, then pushed back to 2019) and how another very significant painting by Perez D'Aleccio has been locked away from view for some five years.