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When the Knights splashed out on Baroque sculptures

The front cover of the book by Keith Sciberras showing a detail from the Gloria by Giovanni Giardini.

The front cover of the book by Keith Sciberras showing a detail from the Gloria by Giovanni Giardini.

The fear of corsairs, what ships to use and the type of insurance to take out were some of the preoccupations of the Order of St John when they had to bring to Malta the baroque works of art commissioned from some of the top artists in Rome during the 17th and 18th centuries, baroque historian Keith Sciberras said.

Dr Sciberras is the author of the fully illustrated book Roman Baroque Sculpture for the Knights of Malta, which has just been published by Fondazzjoni Patrimonju Malti.

The Fondazzjoni has an excellent reputation for its repertoire of vibrant exhibitions and other publications, among them the intriguing series Treasures of Malta.

Progress Press did the image setting, the colour separations and printing.

The book is based on 10 years of archival and stylistic research carried out by the author mainly in Rome and in Malta. This research formed the backbone of the author's PhD dissertation.

"The works of art were either exported complete or in a number of parts.

"The text is buttressed by a lot of documents and with a critical analysis of the works," Dr Sciberras added.

Through his search for the artists behind the sculptures, Dr Sciberras managed to identify the authors of a number of important works including those of several funerary monumental sculptures.

"The Knights of Malta chose Rome to commission these works because at that time the Eternal City was at the height of artistic achievement, falling precisely in the period after Bernini.

"The commissions by the Order were overseen by the ambassador of the Order in Rome after the designs and the models were approved in Malta.

"Some of these ambassadors were exceptional art connoisseurs, among them Marcello Saccetti, therefore the Order entrusted these personalities to follow the completion of the works of art in Rome.

"At times works did not fit the place they were meant for. The funerary monument of Marc Antonio Zondadari was too big for the place indicated for it and as a result it was installed in the nave of St John's Co-Cathedral, in Valletta and not in the chapel of Italy.

"There were instances when the Grand Masters complained about the high cost of the works although they were aware of the extremely fine workmanship.

"Baroque art is a reaction to the feeling of confidence that the Catholic Church experienced after the Council of Trent. The baroque is triumphal, sensual, as well as rich in texture and compositional and emotional qualities," Dr Sciberras explained.

The book has a preface by Jennifer Montagu, a leading authority on Roman baroque sculpture.

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