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Chapel's 18th century paintings restored

Before and after: St Anthony the Abbot meeting St Paul the Hermit, one of three 18th century paintings at Tal-Providenza chapel that were restored by members of ReCoop, the Restoration and Conservation Cooperative.

Before and after: St Anthony the Abbot meeting St Paul the Hermit, one of three 18th century paintings at Tal-Providenza chapel that were restored by members of ReCoop, the Restoration and Conservation Cooperative.

Three mid- to late 18th century paintings at Tal-Providenza chapel have just been restored by ReCoop - the Restoration and Conservation Cooperative - in time for the feast of Our Lady of Providence, limits of Siggiewi, this weekend.

The restoration of the paintings - oil on canvas - is part of a major project of restoration and conservation undertaken by the Kummissjoni Patrimonju Kulturali of Siggiewi.

Established at the beginning of 2004 by Fr Albert Buhagiar, archpriest of Siggiewi, the KPK is made up of seven members including Carmel Cascun, as chairman.

KPK raises funds mainly from private and corporate sponsors and benefactors for the restoration of religious heritage including several chapels around Siggiewi and the paintings and artefacts in them.

Over the past 18 months, KPK has carried out maintenance and restoration works at the chapel of St Mary of Hal-Xluq including some of its paintings.

The three restored paintings at Tal-Providenza chapel have always been known to be at the chapel although the artists are unknown.

The paintings were found to be very fragile mainly because of exposure to extremely high natural light intensity levels and unstable environments resulting also from rainwater seepage.

The painting most affected by this seepage was St Anthony the Abbot meeting St Paul the Hermit with possible attribution to Francesco Zahra, ReCoop member Agatha Grima said. Damage included tears and losses in the sagging canvas, together with paint patches that had deteriorated.

Its wooden stretcher frame had suffered extensive damage and could no longer support the canvas. An emergency facing treatment before transportation ensured that the painting arrived safely at the ReCoop labs, Ms Grima added.

"The other oil paintings representing St Cajetan and St Philip of Neri and The Assumption of Our Lady were principally suffering from weakening of the oil binder in the paint layer leaving the paintings looking faded and chalky.

An interesting phenomenon was observed on the Assumption where the white highlights in the Virgin's mantle had turned black.

"Microscopic investigation revealed black spots typical of biological growth on lead paint," ReCoop member Paul Muscat said.

The paintings were documented before treatment was carried out.

Such scientific conservation process includes lengthy procedures mainly because a professional conservator is bound to execute treatments holistically rather than taking shortcuts that may expose the painting to risk of losing its integrity. The whole process is documented and a final report issued.

The restoration of the paintings will be inaugurated today at 7 p.m. during Mass at Tal-Providenza chapel followed by a presentation to the public by Mr Muscat, and a get-together for the sponsors and benefactors who support KPK restoration projects.

www.recoop.com.mt
e-mail:[email protected]

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