Historical altar painting, crucifix in the parish church of Siġġiewi under restoration

An altar painting and a crucifix dating from the end of the 17th century executed for the chapel of Our Lady of Sorrows in the parish church of Siġġiewi are the subject of major restoration and conservation work, supported by the Bank of Valletta.

The Golgotha ​​group which was executed in Rome (perhaps under the supervision of Lorenzo Gafà), was completed in August 1700 and arrived in Malta on January 4, 1701.

The parish church of Siġġiewi, designed by Lorenzo Gafà, was completed in the 1690s and the construction of the altar of Our Lady of Sorrows was executed between 1694 and 1696. Gafà was in Rome to supervise the works of the titular work of the Conventual Church of St. John in 1699. It is possible that at this time he also supervised the execution of the Golgotha ​​group.

Photo: BOV

The painting is attributed to Michelangelo Marulli, a Maltese artist working in Rome, while the crucifix is ​​the work of sculptor Giovanni Battista Vanelli. Emerging data supports the idea of ​​a close collaboration between the two artists and indicates that Marulli polychromed the crucifix.

All this information has been revisited and supplemented with material evidence during this conservation project entrusted to Agatha Grima Conservators.

“The conservation project began with information gathering through research of existing archives and documents, and extensive scientific documentation,” said Agatha Grima.

“This documentation consists of high-resolution imaging, non-invasive physico-optical investigations, tests and analyses. This information shed light on the original manufacturing technique, the fragile and unstable state of the work and the many previous interventions which had left the original layers hidden under thick opaque layers of grime, oxidized varnish and overpaint.

With this in mind, the restorers have formulated a specific tailor-made treatment divided into three phases. The treatment began with the cleaning and removal of all foreign materials currently obscuring the legibility of the work.

In the coming days, with the start of the second phase, the weakened canvas and wooden support will undergo structural consolidation and support. The third phase will include aesthetic integration and the application of protective layers.

The project is expected to be completed by the end of this year.

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Martha J. Finley