One of Mattia Preti’s Masterpieces, ‘Boethius and Philosophy’, has returned to Malta after more than 100 years.
The masterpiece, which is the government’s latest addition to the National Collection, is now displayed for viewing by the public at MUŻA, Malta’s National Community Art Museum, from the 17th until the 31st of July. This enrichment of Malta’s National Collection was made possible thanks to the Government’s acquisition of the major masterpiece just last February. The acquisition of the monumental oil on canvas for the sum of €1,323,000 during Sotheby’s Old Masters Auction in New York, was financed by the National Development and Social Fund.
“‘Boethius and Philosophy’ has strong links to Malta,” emphasised Minister for the National Heritage, the Arts, and Local Government José Herrera. “By acquiring it, we are returning it to its rightful owners, the Maltese people.” Minister Herrera said that this masterpiece is now officially under Heritage Malta’s wing, having been assigned with its stewardship for the benefit of present and future generations.
“This acquisition was possible thanks to our collaboration with Government and the National Development and Social Fund,” stated Anthony Scicluna, Heritage Malta’s Chairperson. “I now look forward to completing the restoration works at the Grandmaster’s Palace, so as to display this work of art where it was first originally displayed.”
“This acquisition, which is a first for NDSF, falls within one of the socio-economic aims in its founding regulations, that is, to protect and enrich the cultural and artistic heritage of our country,” asserted Raymond Ellul, the NDSF’s Chief Executive Officer.
Professor Keith Sciberras, Head of the Department of Art and Art History within the Faculty of Arts, stated that “Mattia Preti’s painting of Boethius and Philosophy has all it takes to make it an extraordinary work. It has technical quality, a sophisticated theme, a strong narrative, and distinguished provenance.”
It is thought that Boethius and Philosophy was commissioned around 1680 by Fra Andrea di Giovanni, a Knight of the Order of Malta, and it also features in his 1714 will. Following his death, it was displayed at the Grandmaster’s Palace. It is also known that it was there until the 1820s, when it was captured in a watercolour depicting the Pages Room, by artist Charles de Brocktorff (1775-1850).
The circumstances in which the Preti painting disappeared are however still not clear, but at that time it was common practice for the British to sell national treasures or offer them as gifts. In fact, the painting is missing in any of the late 19th century Palace inventories.