Conservation of D'Aleccio Wall Painting Cycle

The Perez D’Aleccio

The Great Siege is a very important wall painting cycle in the Palace of the President, Valletta. It was painted in 1575-1581 by Matteo Perez d’Aleccio, an artist who studied under Michelangelo and participated in the painting of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican. Created in commemoration of the Great Siege of 1565, the cycle was the first monumental painting scheme commissioned by the Order of St John, in the principal hall of the newly built Grand Master’s Palace in Valletta. It is the most detailed and historically accurate visual document of the Siege itself, created within 10-15 years of the event, and drawing from many eyewitness accounts.

The paintings therefore constitute an extraordinarily important historical document, defining for the history of art in Malta, and which continue to serve as enduring symbols for the identity of the modern nation.  The cycle was partially conserved in 2001-2005 by the University of Dresden, but the project was not completed, leaving approximately one third of the paintings in need of conservation.

The University of Malta’s project therefore will complete the work begun in the 2000s, using updated conservation methods to stabilize the final third of the paintings, removing surface soiling which currently darkens the images, and improving the legibility of the cycle as a whole.

A dynamic and growing department within the Faculty of Built Environment at the University of Malta, the Department of Conservation and Built Heritage is staffed by professionals in wall painting conservation, conservation architecture, conservation science, archaeology and cultural heritage management, all with extensive professional experience in Malta and abroad.

The mission of the Department is to provide internationally recognised university education in all that concerns the Built Heritage, its conservation and management. This is being achieved through a range of postgraduate University courses as well as research initiatives, and outreach programmes.

In addition to their teaching and research work within the University, members of the Department participate in non-academic projects focusing on the management of major archaeological sites, architectural conservation, scientific analysis of materials and the design and implementation of large scale wall painting conservation projects, including projects in the private sector.

The Department maintains close interdisciplinary partnerships with other faculties and departments at the University of Malta, including the Faculty of Engineering, the Department of Classics and Archaeology, and the Chemistry Department, in the delivery of its course programme as well as in research initiatives. The Department also collaborates closely with other organisations, institutions and professionals working in the sector, on a local, national and international level, to improve awareness of conservation issues and to achieve excellence in teaching and research.

The project will be designed, managed, and led by:

Ms. Jennifer Porter, MA (Courtauld Institute of Art, London): professional wall painting conservator with 10 years of experience practising in Malta and other countries in Europe, the Americas, Asia and the Middle East;

Dr. Chiara Pasian, MA ((University of Applied Sciences and Arts of Southern Switzerland, Lugano), PhD (Courtauld Institute of Art, London): professional wall painting conservator specialized in the design and testing of conservation materials, with experience in Europe, Asia and the Middle East;

Ms. Roberta De Angelis, Diploma in Conservation of Paintings (Istituto Centrale per il Restauro,Rome) and MPhil. (University of Malta): professional wall painting conservator with 15 years of experience practising in Italy, Malta and Canada.

It will also have the full support of the Head of Department, Prof. JoAnn Cassar, conservation architect Dr Shirley Cefai and cultural heritage manager and archaeologist Dr Reuben Grima, of the same Department of Conservation and Built Heritage.