One of the latest artistic works in the St John’s Co-Cathedral collection which have undergone restoration is a painting with a very particular subject, as it depicts two Marian mysteries: the Madonna’s ascension into heaven, and her crowning as queen of heaven and earth. The painting is kept in the sacristy of the Co-Cathedral.
This large-sized work hangs over the door of the sacristy. In fact the painting encompasses the two subjects merged into one work of art: the coronation of the Madonna, and in the lower part, the amazed Apostles gazing into an empty tomb which represents her ascension to heaven. Curator Cynthia De Giorgio stated that from an artistic aspect the painting is of a high level, with the artist working in mannerist syle, and it was probably executed towards the end of the sixteenth century.
The Curator added that “in those times there were not many top class artists. Which means that either the painting was not executed in Malta, or if it was painted in Malta, it was probably the work of either Paladini or Perez d’Aleccio, who we know were both in Malta at the time.”
There is scant knowledge about this artistic work, with the Curator’s theory being that it was transferred from the Oratory of the Jesuits’ Church in Valletta following an explosion in the seventeenth century which had caused considerable damage. The Curator added that the restoration, particularly technical tests which had been carried out, had shed light on several aspects.
“They show that from the colours used in the execution, the blus is made from lapis lazuli. Lapis lazuli is made from a semi-precious stone, which indicates that the patron of this painting could afford to pay well, and the artist had wanted to please him. We can also see the the style seems to have been influenced by one of the great masters; possibly before the artist came to Malta, he was already practising in Rome, and the upper part enjoys artistic licence as the artist appears to be working from his imagination.”
De Giorgio explained that when part of the old lining was removed, candle burns were evident on the back part, an indication the the painting could at some time have been the titular in some other church. The Curator added that the painting had been recognised by other artists who had worked locally, including Stefano Erardi, who had copied from it for works commissioned by other churches. Cynthia De Giorgio added that above all, the restoration had helped to bring out some beautiful details by the artist, mainly the bright colours he had used.