HILARY SPITERI
Artist | Art Historian

IMMAĠNI

The Series

Credits

IMMAĠNI, a socio-religious programme, in which Hilary Spiteri, in the role of an Art Historian, tours some of Malta's iconic places to explore a variety of works of art and discuss their artistic, historical and religious relevance.
 
The programme is presented by Christine Delicata and produced by CPI MEDIA.
Presented by Hilary Spiteri
Produced & Directed by CPI Media & Marthese Brincat
Camera / Lighting by Paul Jones, Louis Mallia & Baskal Mallia
Written by Hilary Spiteri
Re-Recording Mixing by CPI Media
A CPI Media Production
Episode 1
Is-Santwarju tal-Madonna fil-Mellieħa
 
 

1/39  Tradition has it that the painting was made by St Luke when he was shipwrecked on the island with St Paul, but recent studies have shown it to be a work following a Siculo-Byzantinesque (Byzantinesque in inspiration and Sicilian in style influence) idiosyncrasy. Most probably it was painted during the 14th century by a foreign artist, possibly from Sicily.

Episode 2
Ex Voto

 


2/39  An ex-voto is a votive offering to a saint or to a divinity. It is donated in fulfillment of a vow (hence the Latin term, short for ex voto suscepto, "from the vow made") or in gratitude or devotion. The earliest known votive paintings are believed to be those found in Naples and go back to the second half of the sixteenth century. By this time the Council of Trent (1545-63) had revitalized the popular Marian cult.

Episode 3

St Paul's Shipwreck, Giuseppe Cali, Mellieħa

 

3/39  The third episode happening on World Mission Day, the painting by Giuseppe Cali representing St Paul and the advent of Christianity in Malta. St Paul as depicted in the Acts of the Apostles, the apostle who travels into three separate journeys spreading the good word. On his way to martyrdom he was forced to stop in Malta and the rest is history.

Episode 4
All Saints

 


4/39  Since the dawn of Christianity, saints in Malta were profoundly worshiped. The very first worshiped saints pertain to the cult of the East whereas with the Latinisation process, brought forth by the Normans, amplified the list of saints, including those worshiped across the Mediterranean. The Church in Malta has always fueled the worship of saints as intermediaries between us and God; between man and the Supreme. Saints are celebrated and evoked. Small churches across the Islands were built, niches carved out in facades, relics exposed on altars, confraternities founded … and the list goes on …

Episode 5
All Souls

 


5/39  “For you were made from dust, and to dust you will return." Genesis 3:19. A very particular day in calendar of the Church commemorating all those who parted this world. Despite of the loss, faith drives us in believing that this temporal world is only a preparation to what is to be in the after world. During Medieval times the church professed the Fear of God and apocalyptic scenarios were depicted. Nowadays the Church focuses more on the festal aspect of the souls’ departure to a place of eternal glory and bounty.

Episode 8
Christ the King, Antonio Sciortino

 


8/39  The monument of Christ the King by Antonio Sciortino is a significant landmark recalling a very important event in Malta’s jubilee celebrations marking the beginning of the 20th century, and the Holy Year 1900 dedicated to Christ the Redeemer. It commemorates the Eucharistic Congress of 1913 which was a very important event involving the participation of not less than five cardinals and 39 archbishops from all over the world. Sciortino creates a majestic monument just outside the entrance to the capital city. The rendering of the surface of the bronze figures is impressionistic while the facial features of Christ were treated with finesse to emphasise and attract attention.

Episode 6
Grand Master L'Isle Adam's Chalice

 


6/39  A beautiful 16th Century chalice made in Paris boasting of fine work with a chasing and exquisitely delicate relief decorations of vine shoots and tendrils are of superior quality. The chalice is presumably a stray from the treasure of the conventual church.

Episode 9
Knights Hospitaller, the building of Valletta and the St John's Co Cathedral

 

9/39  The Hospitaller Knights settled in Malta in 1530 were they continued their actions against the Muslims and especially the Barbary pirates. Although they had only a few ships they quickly drew the ire of the Ottomans, who were unhappy to see the order resettled. In 1565 Suleiman sent an invasion force of about 40,000 men to besiege the 700 knights and 8,000 soldiers and expel them from Malta and gain a new base from which to possibly launch another assault on Europe. The Knights came out victorious of what is known as the Great Siege of Malta. As a result, St John’s Co-Cathedral was built by the Knights of Malta between 1573 and 1578, having been commissioned in 1572 by Grand Master Jean de la Cassière as the conventual church of the Order of the Knights Hospitaller of St John.

Episode 12

Adoration of the Magi, Valletta, Malta, Stefano Erardi

 

 

12/39 The Adoration of the Magi produced in the 17th century by Maltese artist Stefano Erardi. Erardi’s art is stylistically rooted in tradition of Bolognese painters of the early seicento. He was one of Malta's leading native artists, who, although bred in a Late Mannerist idiom, his art matured significantly after the advent of Mattia Preti (1613-99) in Malta in the 1660's.

 

The painting was produced for the chapel of the Langue of Allemagne, as it was referred to during the time of the Knights. The chapel was originally assigned to the Langue of England. It was however re-assigned to the Langue of Germany in the Chapter General of 1603, when the Church of England was established.

Episode 10
The Beheading of St John the Baptist, Caravaggio


10/39  Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio was ordained as a Knight of St John after a 1 year novitiate of joining the holy chivalric order. As a passaggio, Caravaggio donated his largest canvas and the only one ever signed by the artist representing the Beheading of St John the Baptist, the patron saint of the Order.

Episode 11

Ceiling Co Cathedral of St John, Valletta, Mattia Preti

 

11/39 The decoration of the barrel vault began in 1660. Mattia Preti, here, used oil-based paint and applied it directly onto the stone.  For the next six years Preti toiled with the rest of the vault. He ingeniously used its six bays to fit his narrative cycle. Each bay is subdivided into three sections.

 

The story of St John starts from the first bay at the main door with the vision of the priest Zachary and ends with the beheading of the saint in the sixth and last bay to the right of the altar.

Episode 7
Columnar Cross, Howard Gardens, Rabat MALTA


7/39  “Min m'għandux salib għandu domna!” Many crosses are linked to a number of traditions or events which took place annually in parishes, while others still are thought to have been built to commemorate a particularly important figure or historical happening. At times it is also popularly known as is-Salib tad-Dejma. This nomenclature takes us back to Medieval times when the Maltese used to organize some sort of Militia according to towns of origin in order to defend their town and coastal area from any possible attacks from raiders coming by sea.

Episode 13

Death of St Joseph, Msida Parish Church, Malta

 

13/39 “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11, 25) Three artists were involved in the embellishment of the Msida Church ceiling: Anton Inglott, Emvin Cremona and Raymond Pitre’. These works mark a turning point in Maltese art, with the most talented Anton Inglott who was one of the most significant figures in the history of the twentieth century Maltese painting. He injected the artistic scenario with a new verve – an artistic style that no one had ever dreamed of even coming close to.

 

Unfortunately, his untimely demise halted and interrupted the works in the church.

Episode 15

Baptism of Christ, Valletta, Malta, Guzeppe Mazzuoli

 

15/39  Mazzuoli carried out some major commissions for the Order of Malta, most noticeably the main altar of St. John's Co-Cathedral in Valletta, finished in 1703. There, he created a marble group of the Baptism of Christ which might on the one hand have been influenced by Cafà's undocumented and abandoned designs from 1666, and it is certainly strongly dependent on a small baptism group by Alessandro Algardi. In the same church, he produced in his later years allegorical figures for the tomb of Ramon Perellos y Roccaful (died 1720), Grand Master of the Order of Malta.

Episode 16

Chapel of Our Lady of Philermos, Valletta, Malta

 

16/39  The first chapel on the south side of the church was dedicated to the Virgin Mary and was the first one to be given a particular devotion. The chapel housed the icon of the Virgin of Philermos that the knights had brought with them from Rhodes. The icon was believed to be miraculous and drew great devotion especially before battle when the knights would congregate and pray for the intercession of the Virgin Mary.

 

When they returned victorious they would again congregate in the chapel and give thanks and present the keys of the conquered fortresses to the Virgin. The keys to the fortresses of Lepanto, Passava, Hammet and Patras are still present within the chapel.

Episode 14

Interview: Nathaneal Theuma (artist)

 

 

14/39 Hilary Spiteri interviews Maltese artist Nathanael Theuma.

Episode 17

Interiew: Vincent Borg (artist)

 

 

17/39 Hilary Spiteri interviews artist Vincent Borg. He is struck by the works of the major exponents of the Russian avant-garde movements Suprematism and Constructivism, that marked the beginning of the 20th century. Lately, his endeavours were mainly focused on developing abstract images characterised by geometric shapes, hard edges and flat colours.

Episode 18

Church dedicated to the Holy Family, St Venera, Malta, Lazzaro Pisani

 

18/39 Pisani (1854-1932) is considered one of Malta's most important artists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He started his studies with Mikiel Bellanti and Nazju Cortis and won a scholarship at the Accademia di San Luca and the British Academy in Rome. His career was, however, largely overshadowed by Giuseppe Calì (1846-1930) who netted some of the most lucrative and prestigious commissions. In spite of having such a formidable competitor, Pisani got his fair share of sacred art and portrait work.

Episode 19

Statue of St Paul, Valletta, Malta, Melchiorre Cafa

 

19/39 Melchiorre Cafa establishes himslef in Rome c.1658 where he produced the statue of St Paul in c.1659 and sent it to Malta. The work was origanally commissioned by either the Bonnici or Testaferrata families. It was produced in the studio of Ercole Ferrata in Rome and later donates to the Church of St Paul Shipwreck, Valletta.


An early work by Cafa and still under the influence of the Roman Baroque Classical Style by Alessandro Algardi.

Episode 20

Interview: Joe Saliba (artist)

 

20/39 Hilary Spiteri interviews artist Joe Saliba born in Qormi, Malta.

Episode 21

Spirituality of St George Preca, Blata l-Bajda, Malta, Charles Cassar

 

 

 

21/39 Immagni focused on artist Charles Cassar. The work chosen was the Spirituality of St George Preca. Charles Cassar was one of Malta’s leading artists. He hailed from Valletta but resided and worked in Kappara. He was educated at the Lyceum, University of Malta and at the Malta School of Art. In 1964, he placed first in the scholarship exam and was awarded a four-year-government grant to further his artistic education abroad.

Episode 24

La Disputa di S Giorgio and Il Rinnegamento di S Giorgio, St George Parish Church, Qormi, Pietro Paolo Caruana 

 

24/39 Immagni does its final stop at Qormi St George Parish Church focusing on two monumental Neoclassical paintings by Pietro Paolo Caruana (1794-1852). 

At a very young age, Pietro Paolo Caruana, has shown that he was very talented. In 1819 he was sent to Rome where he furthered his artistic skills. Among the works executed in Rome, we find, the Archangel Michael and St. George with the Dragon. These two canvases, established him as Malta's up and coming Purist painter. In 1831, he was elected Professor at The Malta School of Art. Caruana died on the 23rd of April 1852 and was buried in the church of Porto Salvo, Valletta.

Episode 22

Qormi Pala d'Altare, St George Parish Church, Qomi

 

 

 

22/39 A work of notable importance, both on a local and national level. A fifteenth century panel painting that survives in a dilapidated state and is in need of restoration. The Qormi Pala d'Altare is one of Malta’s late Medieval works of art that are still extant to this present day showcasing a socio-artistic context to Malta’s medieval past and thus an object of high value and artistic validity.

Episode 23

God the Father, St Goerge Parish Church, Qormi, Mattia Preti

 

 

 

23/39 The figure of God looks directly at the viewer with his left hand placed upon the world, depicted in the form of an orb. In the same hand, he holds a staff, while his right hand is lifted up in a blessing gesture. As God the Father sits upon a cloud, He is surrounded by putti. Light fills the painting from the left, a characteristic typical of the Baroque period; but it also shines out of God the Father himself, as can be seem from the triangular halo behind upon his head. The palette used by the Preti is bright with a gold tint which is commonly found in his earlier works on the island. 

Episode 25

St Sebastian, St Sebastian Parish Church, Qormi, George Borg

 

25/39  A statue that was greeted 75 years ago in the streets of Qormi. Produced by one of the most significant and highly influential sculptors in Malta. The statue representing St Sebastian by George Borg.

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