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Commemorating the 10th anniversary of Palazzo Falson

Treasures Of Malta (Summer 2017).
Fondazzjoni Patrimonju Malti,2017.

The latest issue of Treasures of Malta (Summer 2017, No. 69, Vol. XXIII, No. 3) is somewhat more special than usual as it commemorates the 10th anni­versary of the opening of Palazzo Falson in Mdina to the public after considerable work and effort by the talented team at Fondazzjoni Patrimonju Malti.

As part of this celebration, the volume adequately features 15 papers and contributions, some lengthier than others, that relate in many different ways to the historic palazzo. It is a bumper issue par excellence, including an editorial penned with flair by Judge Giovanni Bonello.

Palazzo Falson has stood in Mdina for centuries, being altered according to the needs of its new owners. Having originally had a different orientation to that we see today on Villegaignon Street, the palazzo was built over what was once a medieval fortification within the walls of Mdina known as La Rocca.

Among the first residents of the palazzo was Matteo Falsone, who was Vice-Admiral in 1530. The last was Captain Olof Frederick Gollcher who made it his home in the 20th century, where he lived together with his wife, who was known as Nella. Moreover, the palazzo hosted Grand Master L’Isle Adam for some weeks in 1530.

Needless to say, this is a significant Mdina dwelling that has been fortunate enough to have a long and interesting history. This, and the fact that it has been so well maintained of late after decades of being unutilised following Gollcher’s death, is the reason it now attracts thousands of visitors as a historic house museum every year. It is a wonderful success story.

Both useful and informative, as well as pleasant to read in bite-sized chunks

It is this building that has allowed researchers to dwell on Gollcher himself, and learn and disseminate knowledge about his character, his art, his importance to underwater archaeology in Malta, as well as his other wide-ranging interests and the history of collecting in Malta and specific objets d’art themselves.

The contributions are largely by experts in their respective fields of research, both local and international. Each essay on the various items discussed places the works of art in their proper historical context. Some specialised contributions are accompanied by a glossary and diagrams alongside the photographs and text. This makes the volume both useful and informative, as well as pleasant to read in bite-sized chunks.

The sitting room at Palazzo Falson. Photo: Jon WrigleyThe sitting room at Palazzo Falson. Photo: Jon Wrigley

In this issue, Palazzo Falson curator Francesca Balzan adequately outlines Gollcher’s biography, and in a second contribution, she proudly presents a concise account of the historic house museum’s first 10 years.

Anthony Pace’s contribution sheds light on how the O.F. Gollcher Art and Archaeological Foundation functioned until the eventual agreement with Fondazzjoni Patrimonju Malti to care for Palazzo Falson leading to its eventual opening to the public as a historic house museum in 2001.

Other contributions delineate research relating to groups of items in Gollcher’s collection, based on the understanding the collection itself. Among these are decorative arts, such as fans, silver objects, furniture, rugs, watches, coins, the 16 painted coat-of-arms adorning the palazzo’s sala nobile, as well as arms and armour.

Some of the silver pieces displayed in the Strong Room at Palazzo Falson. (Courtesy of Miranda Publishers/PHOTO: ENRICO FORMICA as reproduced in Palazzo Falson 360&deg;: A Historic House Museum, Miranda Publishers, 2007 / <a href="www.mirandabooks.com"><a href="http://www.mirandabooks.com">www.mirandabooks.com</a></a>)Some of the silver pieces displayed in the Strong Room at Palazzo Falson. (Courtesy of Miranda Publishers/PHOTO: ENRICO FORMICA as reproduced in Palazzo Falson 360°: A Historic House Museum, Miranda Publishers, 2007 / www.mirandabooks.com)

Gollcher’s wonderful library containing 4,000 or so books – which have in part been digitised as part of Palazzo Falson’s work – does not fail to feature, with William Zammit highlighting key publications of local and international interest that survive.

Anna Borg Cardona, who is working towards a major 2018 exhibition on music in Malta, takes advantage of the presence of a publication in Gollcher’s collection containing the sheet music of the Maltese national country dance for which she provides a detailed history.

Palazzo Falson has served as a meeting place for Malta’s elite, but which also hosted people from all walks of life. And now, as a historic house museum, it is still managing to host historians who study one or more of the items in its collection, thanks to none other than Olof Frederick Gollcher and the foundation that he set up.

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