The Malta Society of Arts (MSA) in collaboration with the Department of Conservation and Built Heritage of the Faculty of the Built Environment at the University of Malta, recently held an event to inaugurate the recently-conserved wall paintings of the Chapel at Palazzo de La Salle in Valletta, which has been the seat of the MSA for almost one hundred years.
The Chapel is one of the earliest and finest examples of chapels situated in a private residence in Valletta. It has a carved, painted and gilded mid-17th century altar reredos and the top part of the room is decorated with a mural frieze from the early 18th century. The frieze depicts a number of coats of arms, namely those of Fra Guillaume de La Salle, one of the eponymous brothers who occupied the Palazzo in the mid-18th century, and Grandmaster Manoel de Vilhena, during whose grand-mastership the Palace was transferred to the Order. The frieze also contains scenes from the Life of St. John the Baptist. These paintings are of unknown authorship and are significant for being among only a handful of similar Baroque wall paintings to survive within a domestic context in Malta.
The Chapel, which had been closed to the public since the early 20th century, has undergone an extensive conservation process under the supervision of the Department of Conservation and Built Heritage of the University of Malta. The Chapel now houses the most exclusive elements within the Society’s collection of religious works of art, including works by Cremona, Inglott, Bonnici, Alden and Sciortino.
During the inauguration, Prof. JoAnn Cassar, Head of the Department of Conservation and Built Heritage, spoke about the mission and teaching of the Department; and lecturer Jennifer Porter, who supervised the works, gave an account of the conservation process that lasted around two years. Prof. Keith Sciberras of the Arts & Art History Department spoke about the Art and Architecture of the Palace, which dates to the late 16th century.
Artist and curator Roderick Camilleri, who is also a member of the MSA Committee, spoke about the collection of Modern Art pieces that now adorn the Chapel.
The event was introduced by Prof. Michael Zammit of the Philosophy Department. MSA president Adrian Mamo thanked the Department of Conservation and Built Heritage for taking the initiative to carry out the programme of works and restoring the Chapel to its former glory.
The Chapel and the artworks contained within it can be visited during the Malta Society of Arts’ opening hours: Monday to Friday 8am to 7pm, and Saturdays 9am to 1:30pm. Entrance is free.