Religious paintings by Francesco Zahra are on display in Rome

Six masterpieces by the 18th century Maltese painter, Francesco Zahra, are on display abroad after undergoing extensive restoration in recent months.

Malta’s Ambassador to Italy Carmel Vassallo told TVM that for a month these paintings will be available for public viewing at the Basilica of San Andrea della Valle in the heart of the Italian capital Rome.

One of the restorers, Sante Guido, thanked Malta for providing the opportunity for a cultural link between the two countries.

Six paintings depicting six passages from the Old Testament painted by the Maltese painter Francesco Zahra are on display for a month in an exhibition at the Basilica of San Andrea della Valle in Rome, Italy. Francesco Zahra lived from 1717 to 1773 and his works were mostly religious paintings in the Neapolitan Baroque style.

Francesco Zahra’s paintings can be found in many churches around the Maltese islands. Among these are these six paintings of the Oratory of the Blessed Sacrament in Żejtun. In recent months these paintings have undergone extensive restoration by the restorers Sante Guido and Giuseppe Mantella and have been funded by the Cultural Diplomacy Program and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Malta’s ambassador to Italy, Carmel Vassallo, explained that after much effort, especially due to the difficulties created by the pandemic, these paintings can now be enjoyed by Maltese living in Rome and also by Italians.

“Every year the Ministry of Foreign Affairs asks embassies around the world to propose some cultural projects and when we propose these projects we see if there is any link with what we are organising and the country where we are hosted. This year the Ministry asked me for something that had already started 3 years ago with the restoration of these famous paintings by Francesco Zahra. ”

The archpriest of Żejtun, Fr Nicholas Pace, said that when he became archpriest of this parish he also undertook to protect every historical and artistic heritage of the place.

“They have come back to life through this restoration, but have now been exposed on a much larger platform. They are not locked up in the sacrament oratory in Zejtun, but they have come to this eternal city.”

One of the restorers, Sante Guido, thanked Malta for providing the opportunity to have a cultural link between the two countries.

“To show Francesco Zahra, the first Maltese painter, in Rome. To bring in Rome 6 masterpieces by him and show him in this wonderful basilica in the heart of Rome so the meaning is the bridge between the two islands, Malta and Gozo and of course Italy.”

Francesco Zahra is considered the most important Maltese painter in the 18th century. His works were heavily influenced by the art scene in Naples with art critics saying that artists Mattia Preti and Caravaggio made an impact on the his works.