Statue of St Dominic restored in time for feast
The statue of St Dominic, venerated in one of Valletta's three parishes, has just been restored by members of Recoop - the restoration and conservation cooperative.
Although there is no definite record of the statue's provenance, some historians consider it to date back to the early 17th century, Recoop member Agatha Grima said.
An examination carried out by Ms Grima indicated that the statue had been suffering from slight insect infestation. However, having been attended to at an early stage, the problems were tackled through a restoration process.
Had such problems been left unattended, the statue might have eventually suffered great structural damage. The statue, made of polychrome wood, was also being damaged as a result of a stagnant and damp environment.
This was due to two factors. One factor being the high humidity levels inside the church and the other was due to the fact that the statue was enclosed in a niche in a damp environment.
Ms Grima explained that she first had to carry out a detailed documentation of the statue prior to restoration. The environment inside the niche was also being monitored.
Documentation was followed by disinfestation and cleaning. Mould on the top layer of paint and on the gilding was eliminated. Mould can cause significant damage since the hyphae, which are the filaments that constitute the body of a fungus, can enter the original material and stain it.
After cleaning the damage in the structure, such as cracks in the eyes and tiny holes, these were repaired and retouched.
According to Ms Grima, the restoration carried out by Oscar Testa in 1960 consisted mostly of the removal of the overprinting which had made the skin of the statue look much darker than it was originally.
Asked about the complexion of the effigy's face, Ms Grima said this could not have possibly been done by a restorer because of its excellent and fine finish. She hypothesised that this looks more like Spanish polychromy that was popular in 17th century Spain.
The exquisite finish was possibly achieved by applying a very fine layer of gesso in preparation for the oil paint that was finely polished using part of the intestine of an animal.
Ms Grima, who was assisted on the project by Recoop members Paul Muscat, as project manager, and Robert Cassar, said the statue is a work of art where one can see the extremely fine work including the measured tool marks of the sculptor who made it.
Ms Grima will today explain the project to the public during a presentation where the conservation processes will be highlighted and the preventive measures discussed. The talk will take place at St Dominic church at 7.30 p.m.
Tomorrow, 9 p.m., Band marches by Qormi bands Anici and Pinto San Bastjan leave from the church accompanying a statue of St Dominic (not the titular statue) to St John's Square where the statue will be placed on a pedestal.
Saturday, 9 a.m., morning march with the participation of the King's Own Band starting and ending at the church in Merchants Street.
At 8.30 p.m., musical concert in front of the church by the King's Own Band. After the concert, the band will play marches as it winds its way to Auberge de Baviere where a fireworks display starts at 11.
Sunday, 7.15 p.m., the procession leaves the church with the statue of the patron saint accompanied by La Stella band of Gudja and Madonna ta' Lourdes band of Paola.