Thirteen Old Master paintings from an international private collection have been loaned on a long-term basis to MUŻA, the Malta National Community Art Museum. They will first be displayed together, from 11 June until the end of October, in an exhibition entitled ‘Masterpieces at MUŻA’. They will then be integrated into the MUŻA display for five years and possibly for another five after that, announced Minister for the National Heritage, the Arts and Local Government José Herrera.
These remarkable artworks range from the late 15th to the mid-18th centuries and in this welcoming exhibition they will be displayed in five sections, allowing for a thematic experience. The sections are: Facing Portraits, Mother and Child, Passion and Devotion, The Greek Myth in Art, and Destructive Nature. In artistic terms, this exhibition is a celebration of the harmonious idiom of the High Renaissance typified by the vast influence exercised by Raffaello, Michelangelo, and Leonardo da Vinci. It also applauds world-renowned artists such as Giovanni Baglione, Claude-Joseph Vernet and François Boucher, represented by their theatrical Baroque and extravagant Rococo depictions. Considering that artistic authorship presents its share of challenges and often remains a matter of debate, this exhibition engages with this debate. In presenting the attributions for these works, Heritage Malta has given due weight to the team of independent scholars and experts, engaged by the private collector, who have studied the works. It is in this light that besides showcasing remarkable artworks, this exhibition also offers the opportunity for a simple reading of basic art notions such as authorship, composition, line, colour, light, symbolism, and context.
‘Masterpieces at MUŻA’ is reaching new frontiers, extending the MUŻA objectives of making art accessible to works from a private collection. This exhibition, therefore, takes accessibility to another level, providing a unique opportunity to appreciate thirteen remarkable artworks which have not been publicly exhibited in decades – only two of them have been displayed in museums during the past ten years.
In his address at the exhibition’s official opening, Minister José Herrera said that various art forms have developed over the centuries, but the works of the Old Masters, and of the lucky few who painted under their tutorship, will forever transcend time. It is our great fortune today that some of these works are being presented at MUŻA, not just for us to appreciate their beauty but also to understand the major role of culture in the development of every nation. The minister congratulated Heritage Malta for successfully bringing these masterpieces to Malta and reiterated his ministry’s commitment to further support the agency’s efforts and similar future initiatives.
Heritage Malta’s Executive Director Mario Cutajar stressed that museums should not be shrines of antiquity but rather centres of discussion and information, where visitors do not just browse around without gaining anything but leave brimming with new knowledge. These centres need to be related to contemporary times to remain relevant and truly accessible. Accessibility is not just ramps and stairways, but above all, it is relevant to the present.
Heritage Malta’s Chief Executive Officer Noel Zammit said that this exhibition marks a significant milestone in Heritage Malta’s existence and perfectly complements the agency’s mission to make local and international cultural patrimony accessible to the public. This is undoubtedly an exclusive occasion for the public – Maltese and tourists alike – to admire otherwise inaccessible cultural attractions. ‘Masterpieces at MUŻA’ will further enhance the impeccable reputation enjoyed by both Heritage Malta and MUŻA. Indeed, Heritage Malta considers the loan of these masterpieces to our national community art museum as a true expression of the trust that the agency enjoys within international circles.
Heritage Malta’s Senior Curator for Ethnography and Art Kenneth Cassar said that ‘Masterpieces at MUŻA’ is Heritage Malta’s eager greeting to thirteen remarkable works of art as they make a most welcome entry at MUŻA on a long-loan basis. These works will not only be enjoyed through this exhibition but will be on permanent display for the years to come to make the MUŻA experience all the richer. In line with the spirit that has shaped up MUŻA, these artworks will reach out to everyone to cultivate and develop connections.
Here is the full list of the masterpieces in their respective sections and with their corresponding attributions:
Facing Portraits (two paintings)
1.’Portrait of a Young Woman’ – Attributed to Giovanni Bellini (Venice, c.1430-1516) and circle; Late 15th / early 16th century; Oil on panel
2. ‘Portrait of Pietro Soderini’ – Unknown Florentine Artist; 16th century; Oil on panel
Mother and Child (four paintings)
1. ‘Madonna and Child with the young St John the Baptist and an Angel in a Landscape’ – Maestro Tommaso (active 1490-1510) and Lorenzo di Credi (Florence, 1459-1537) [?]; Late 15th / early 16th century; Oil and tempera on panel
2. ‘Madonna and Child with the Infant St John the Baptist’ – Attributed to Leonardo da Vinci (Anchiano, 1452-Amboise, 1519) and circle; Late 15th / early 16th century; Oil and tempera on panel
3. ‘Madonna of Divine Love’ – Attributed to Raffaello Sanzio (Urbino, 1483-Rome, 1520) and workshop; 16th century; Oil and tempera on panel
4. ‘Madonna and Child’ – Milanese School (Studio of Leonardo da Vinci, Anchiano, 1452-Amboise, 1519); Early 16th century; Oil and tempera on panel
Passion and Devotion (four paintings)
1. ‘Ecce Homo’ – Andrea Solario (Milan, c. 1465-before 1524) and circle; Early 16th century; Oil on panel
2. ‘Saint John the Baptist’ – Giovanni Baglione (Rome, 1566-1643); Oil on canvas
3. ‘Saint John the Baptist’ – Circle of Leonardo da Vinci (Anchiano, 1452-Amboise, 1519); Late 15th / early 16th century; Oil on panel
4. ‘Crucifixion’ – Peter Paul Rubens (Germany, 1577-Belgium, 1640) and workshop; Early 17th century; Oil on panel
The Greek Myth in Art (two paintings)
1. ‘Leda and the Swan’ – After Michelangelo Buonarroti (Caprese Michelangelo, 1475-Rome, 1564); 16th century; Oil and tempera on canvas (laid down on panel in four parts)
2. ‘Pan and Syrinx’ – François Boucher (Paris, 1703-1770); Oil on canvas
Destructive Nature (one painting)
‘The Tempest’ – Claude-Joseph Vernet (Avignon, 1714-Paris, 1789); Oil on canvas
Admission fees for this exhibition will be as follows: Heritage Malta members – free of charge; children who are Heritage Malta student passport holders – free of charge, two accompanying persons €3 each; seniors who are Heritage Malta passport holders – free of charge, two accompanying persons €3 each; all others pay a fee of €10 which covers both the exhibition and a visit to MUŻA. Opening hours at MUŻA are as follows: All week except Tuesday, from 10:00 am till 4:30 pm. On the 12th and the 13th of June, the exhibition’s opening hours will be extended till 10:00 pm and 8:00 pm respectively. During these extended hours, the admission fee for the exhibition will be €5, with children up to 12 years of age admitted free of charge.
This exhibition is being supported by Visit Malta; the Ministry for the National Heritage, the Arts and Local Government; the Ministry for Finance; and the Department of Art and Art History at the University of Malta.