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Priceless Giuseppe Calì paintings risk being lost

Restoration works to cost €300,000

The face of an angel in this painting of Dominican Pope Pius V has flaked off. Photo: Chris Sant Fournier.

The face of an angel in this painting of Dominican Pope Pius V has flaked off. Photo: Chris Sant Fournier.

A foundation was launched yesterday morning in a bid to rescue the priceless Giuseppe Calì paintings in Valletta's St Dominic's Church.

The restoration cannot start, however, before cracks in the ceiling are fixed in order to stop water seeping in.

Works on the church's roof will cost some €150,000 and, according to architect Claude Busuttil, may only start once the funds are collected.

The painstaking restoration works are expected to double the cost.

In the meantime, the 19th century paintings are flaking, putting the images at risk of being lost forever. According to restorer Pierre Bugeja, the works of art have suffered from staining, paint losses and flaking. The grouting between the stone can be clearly seen through the art which was painted in oil directly on the stone.

The restoration team, which also includes restorer Fr Charles Vella, has already carried out some emergency interventions to ensure that certain important features are not lost. The face of an angel had already peeled away.

"This church is a treasure of Maltese heritage and it would be a pity to lose it," Fr Vella said.

The Fondazzjoni Porto Salvo U San Duminku, chaired by Prior Henry Abela, will be appealing for the necessary funds for the works to be raised.

Foundation secretary Alfred Grixti said contacts have already been made with potential corporate donors and the Good Causes Fund, while the Valletta council is expected to help the foundation apply for EU funds.

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