Heritage Malta, together with the National Development Social Fund, have brought back to Malta Mattia Preti’s prestigious painting which by the end of the 19th Century was at the Grandmaster’s Palace in Valletta and then ended up in a private collection in the United States.
National Heritage and Arts Ministry announced that the Mattia Preti masterpiece, ‘Boizju u l-Filosofija’, is now in Malta. In 1680, Knight Fra Andrea de Giovanni had commissioned Mattia Preti to paint the artwork. It was painted by Preti in Malta and represents the 16th Century philosopher, named Boizju, who was condemned to death in Pavia, Italy.
Preti painted Boizju in his cell contemplating life’s virtues with a Philosophy allegory apparition. Boizju starts a conversation with the Philosophy and writes what were known as the Consolations which, in Medieval times and early modern age, was a very important book. Mattia Preti is among the last important artists whose works reflect Caravaggio’s ‘chiaroscuro’ technique. The painting became very famous and a number of copies were made, including four in Malta.
The University’s Art History department head, Professor Keith Sciberras, said that for some reason the painting did not remain in Malta.
“Its history shows that the artwork was painted in Malta and remained here till the end of the 19th Century…somehow it ended up in a U.S. collection and again came to light in the 20th Century. It was purchased by a renowned collector who died years later, however his children decided to sell the whole collection in Sotheby’s New York and Malta bought the painting”.
Heritage Malta paid over 1.3 million euro through the National Development Social Fund which receives 70% of income from the Citizenship Investment Program. The fund’s chief executive, Ray Ellul, said the investment of Mattia Preti’s masterpiece is in line with the fund’s aims in culture and education. “The investment in the painting will be given on loan to Heritage Malta for an indefinite time so that it will be enjoyed by future generations”.
Heritage Malta chief executive Noel Zammit said the public will be able to see the ‘Boizju u l-Filosofija’ painting at the MUŻA National Arts Museum from the 17th till the 31st July. “This is an honour for the agency, but not only. It is a strong sign that the Government trusts Heritage Malta, thanks to our agency’s professionals who safeguard our historic heritage, protect and conserve it”.
The painting is expected to be placed again at the Grandmaster Palace in Valletta when the palace restoration works are completed.