BOV supports restoration of ‘The Virgin of Divine Grace’
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Bank of Valletta is supporting the restoration of ‘The Virgin of Divine Grace,’ the titular painting at the Capuchins Church dedicated to the Virgin Mary of Divine Grace in Victoria, Gozo.
Although not signed and not containing any coat of arms, the painting is attributed with great certainty to the Maltese painter Stefano Erardi (1630 – 1716). This painting was commissioned by the Canons of the Matrice Church of Gozo (today known as the Cathedral of Gozo) as a sign of gratitude towards the Virgin Mary when the destructive earthquake of January 1693 damaged various buildings but claimed no lives. The painting was already in place by 1698 as documented in the Bishop Cocco Palmieri’s Pastoral Visit of May 1698.
In the central part of the painting, the Madonna and Child appear on a circular cloud surrounded by a host of playful putti and cherubs creating a circular frame below a The Holy Father and other Saints. The Madonna’s meditative face is gazing at a solemn procession approaching the late medieval chapel that was replaced by today’s church. The hilly landscape of Forn il-Gir, as this area is known acts as a backdrop for this scene.
Apart from the natural decay of the pictorial layer over three centuries, the painting was enlarged to fit the stone frame at the church as it is today, and a semicircular part was added atop the original rectangular painting. Numerous punctures in the canvas were made to accommodate two gold crowns which were then replaced by silver ones, subsequently stolen and again replaced.
Edward Muscat Azzopardi, Head Marketing at Bank of Valletta met Fr Carmelo Dimech, Parish Priest at The Church of the Divine Grace in Gozo at Prevarti Restorers and Conservators who were entrusted with the restoration project.
Commenting on the project Mr Muscat Azzopardi said, “Support of the Arts and conservation of national treasures through our commitment to Malta’s heritage are two fundamental aspects of Bank of Valletta’s Community Programme. I’m impressed at the expertise and dedication that is being applied to this project and am entirely confident that the level of conservation and restoration will restore this priceless piece to its original state.”
Photo – Top, Pierre Bugeja, Head Restorer at Prevarti Restorers and Conservators displaying the extent of the damage to the painting under UV light to Edward Muscat Azzopardi, Head Marketing at Bank of Valletta.