National Museum of Fine Arts - Malta
The National Museum of Fine Arts is Malta’s major museum for the visual arts. It houses a collection of works by Maltese and foreign artists mainly representing the major European artistic styles.
The museum is located in the capital city of Valletta, in a palace at the lower end of South Street. The area is the seat of fine historical palaces dating from the times of the Order of St John of Jerusalem that are now used by government ministries and departments. It is also well known for its wine bars and cafes, and views of the city's grid-shaped streets which visitors usually explore on their way to the museum.
The museum houses the major part of the national collection of Malta. The collection began in 1923 when the first fine arts curator, Vincenzo Bonello, embarked on establishing a collection within what was then called the National Museum. Bonello acquired numerous works of excellent quality on the local art market, and in London and Italy. Most were purchased at a time when prices in the art market where still within reach of the museum's modest budget. Public spirited individuals and organizations also left significant bequests.
The permanent display includes the largest collection of paintings by the Southern Italian Baroque artist Mattia Preti (1613–1699), an Italian Knight of the Order of Malta who also contributed to the transformation of the interior of St. John’s Co-Cathedral, Valletta. This, together with a fine and rare collection of antique maps, represents one of the strengths of the collection.
The works of other artists on display include Guido Reni (1575–1642), the Caravaggisti Valentin de Boulogne (1591–1632), Jusepe Ribera (1591–1662) and Mathias Stom (1600–1652), as well as Carlo Maratta (1625–1713) and Bernardo Strozzi (1581–1644). Works by Dutch, French and British artists are also on permanent display.
The collection also includes the works of two outstanding Maltese sculptors, Melchiorre Cafá (1636–1667) and Antonio Sciortino (1879–1947), and a noteworthy group of Maltese landscapes. The Grand Harbour of Malta and its environs is the subject of a Joseph Mallord William Turner watercolour on permanent loan from HSBC Bank Malta (1775–1851). Other works by Edward Lear (1812–1888), Louis Ducros (1748–1810) and local artists representing the same subject are also on display. The museum exhibits a collection of Maltese furniture and silverware, as well as majolica jars mainly of Sicilian production. Many of the jars were in use at the Sacra Infermaria, the Hospital of the Order of St John. Ecclesiastical silverware is also on display, including a rare sixteenth-century chalice of Parisian workmanship.
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