Maltese Crafts

The Maltese Clock

The Maltese Clock’s real origin is difficult to trace. However, tradition has it that they adorned houses of the Maltese nobility as far back as the 17th century. lira

The clock was made of wood suitable to take on several layers of gypsum, which was then engraved and decorated with gold. The case had two doors. The inside door incorporated the hand painted dial to which a hand made clock mechanism by Maltese Clock Master Makers was fixed from behind. Further down in the clock face the moving pendulum could be seen through a decorated aperture. On the front there was another door, which was framed with glass to protect the dial and ornate hands. The clock case was then painted and abundantly decorated with flowers typical of the colourful finish for which the clock is renowned.

These clocks were made either as wall hanging or table clocks. The former were, however, the most popular. Today, the Original Maltese clocks are collectors items and very hard to find for acquisition as they fetch very high prices running into thousands of euros. However, the tradition goes on with the reproduction of these clocks. They are made in the same original manner using the same technique. The only difference is that one cannot find the original hand-made clockwork. Two types of movements are used nowadays: a mechanical movement, which is adapted to be wound from the inside of the clock or a quartz battery movement. The latter is more commonly used being more practical.

The Maltese Clock reproductions come in different colours, the most popular being green, black and terracotta (maroon colour). Mass production is not possible! Malta has a tradition of making some remarkable clocks, in designs unique to the Islands. The industry today is small, but has a fascinating history. These clocks are nicknamed ‘Arlogg tal lira’ clocks. The clocks are laboriously made in intricate stages. Their casings are finely painted and gilded.

Bizzilla – Maltese Lace

lace1Lacemaking in Malta and Gozo trace their origins back to the 16th century. Needlelace was made following the same style as in Venice. This continued until the 19th century when the economic depression present in the islands nearly led to its extinction.

Two people are known to be responsible for introducing and promoting a new lace in these islands in the mid 1800’s. Lady Hamilton Chichester sent lacemakers from Genoa to Malta, where the technique of Italian bobbin lace was developed. They used the old needlelace patterns and turned them into ones using bobbins, instead of the slower time-consuming needles. In Gozo it was the promotion by designer, Dun Guzepp Diacono, that made lacemaking a way of raising the standard of living for local families. It wasn’t long after its introduction before the Maltese/Gozo lace developed it’s own unique style from lace on the continent.

One of the most recognizable traits of Maltese and Gozitan lace is the creamy, honey coloured, Spanish silk from which most of it is made. Black silk was also used until the 20th century when it declined in fashion so it is harder to find today. Later linen was also used in some pieces used for household purposes instead of clothing, as it was more durable.

Another distinguishing feature of Maltese/Gozo lace is the 8 pointed Maltese crosses that are worked into most, but not all of this lace. These crosses are done in what lacemakers call whole or cloth stitch. lace3

The last of the most recognizable features are the leaves known as “wheat ears” or “oats”. They are plump and rounded in shape compared to the long narrow Bedfordshire lace leaves. Bedfordshire lace, which is sometimes compared to Maltese lace, has some similarities and were probably both developed from the Genosese bobbin lace. It is interesting to note that larger pieces of real Maltese lace are made by piecing together sections rarely wider than 6 inches. One more thing to look for in assessing Maltese design is the more fluid styles. Genoese lace is more geometric and without the swirls developed in Gozo.

Another interesting item that lacemakers might find interesting is that the patterns do not have the pin holes pre-marked as in the closely related Genoese lace.

History of Maltese Lace

In 1839 Thomas McGill, who issued A Handbook, or Guide, for Strangers visiting Malta, wrote that “the females of the Island make also excellent lace; the lace mitts and gloves wrought by the Malta girls are bought by all ladies coming to the island; orders from England are often sent for them on account of their beauty and cheapness. ”

The 18th century, by which time lace was already a well-established local industry, provides iconographic evidence of its use in various paintings by Francesco Zahra (1710-1773) and Antoine de Favray (1706-1798), representing high dignitaries of the Order of St John, ecclesiastics and Maltese ladies of society. Agius De Soldanis also records in his dictionary that Malta lace had achieved a high degree of perfection and compared favourably with that produced by Dutch women. Its widespread use for adornment may be inferred from the fact that lace was included with other articles in a bandu or proclamation enacted by Grand Master Ramon Perellos in 1697 aimed at repressing the wearing of gold, silver, jewellery, cloth of gold, silks and other materials of value. The Maltese word for lace, bizzilla, suggests a comparatively recent origin. In fact its introduction to these islands can date further back than the 16th century, when the art of lace-making, probably introduced into Venice from the East began to spread in Europe. From Venice the new technique was soon taken up by Genoa, where pillow lace, as distinct from Venetian point lace, developed. Modem Maltese lace is derived directly from Genoese lace. To quote from Mincoff and Marriage (Pillow Lace, 1907), “This heavier Genoese lace was made from 1625 onwards. Its lineal descendant is modern Maltese, which was introduced into the island by lace workers brought from Genoa in 1833 by Lady Hamilton-Chichester. “Though Genoese’s by extraction the industry, flourishing exceedingly in Malta, has developed a character of its own, retaining as essential the Genoese leaf work but very little of its solid tapes, light twists taking their place. Characteristic is also the Maltese cross in the patterns and the cream or black silk in which the lace is usually worked.” lace

From the above one may infer that lace making, a flourishing industry in the 18th century, fell on evil days and was on the decline during the first years of British rule, and therefore, rather than introduce it into Malta, Lady Hamilton-Chichester helped to revive the industry in 1833. It is a fact that this date coincides roughly with a period of considerable revival and expansion. About the same time lace making spread to the whole of Gozo and became a thriving industry there through the efforts of two priests: Canon Salvatore Bondi (1790-1859) and Fr Joseph Diacono (1847-1924). Lace figured among the objects sent from Malta to the Exhibition of Industries held in London in 1881.

The commercial potential of bobbin lace as developed in Malta led British missionaries to copy and introduce local patterns in the Far East, both in China and India. Patterns were copied first in silk and later in linen and cotton thread. There is a steady demand for lace by tourists.

To ensure the survival of this ancient craft, lace making is taught in Government trade schools for girls, while private bodies such as the Society of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce also hold special evening classes. From time to time exhibitions are held. Besides arousing public awareness of the cultural importance of this aspect of Malta’s national heritage, such initiatives also inspire deeper study of the history and techniques of local lace among women’s organisations and in academic circles. image image

Malta Silverware

silver4With the advent of the Knights of St.John and with architects building a rosary of magnificent churches, silverware in all manner of shape and form came into its own. Palaces, churches, patrician homes, knightly residences and the Holy Infirmary were adorned and endowed.

All this helped the trade along as the use of silverware and silver ornaments in elite and ecclesiastical circles became the order of the day. What has been produced over the centuries from 1530 onwards is now a precious part of Malta’s patrimony.

Mention ‘Maltese Silver’ and association with coffee pots, sugar bowls and library lamps is immediately made. For many years collectors have sought after Maltese silver in international auction rooms and by collectors. Maltese silverware is an important part of the country’s patrimony and is much sought after by collectors in international auction rooms.

This craft, which flourished under the Knights, is still carried on in small workshops across the Islands. These jewels beautifully express Maltese symbols which are unique for Malta and Gozo. silver2A wide variety of made in Malta sterling silver jewellery are available in this category. The very popular hand-made sterling silver Maltese Cross comes in various shapes and patterns making it suitable to all ages and preferences.

There are sterling silver jewellery items that can be used as earrings, pendants, rings, necklaces, bracelets as well as many other decorative items making them suitable for a gift or as a souvenir. All finished products are certified for authenticity and hallmarked accordingly by the Government Consul.


Cane work

canework Wicker has been documented as far back as ancient Egypt, made from indigenous “reed and swamp grasses.” Egyptian middle-class families could only afford a few pieces, such as small tables.

Archaeologists working on the tombs of the wealthy pharaohs have uncovered a wider variety of wicker items, including “chests, baskets, wig boxes, and chairs.” The popularity of wicker passed from Egypt to ancient Rome. Wicker baskets were used to carry items in Pompeii.

Furniture was manufactured out of wicker in the Roman style. The use of wicker presumably spread throughout Europe as the Roman Empire expanded. It has been proposed that the extensive use of wicker in the Iron Age (1200 BC – 400 AD in Europe) may have influenced the development of the woven patterns used in Celtic art. By the 1500s and 1600s, wicker was “quite common” in European countries like Portugal, Spain, and England. Wicker received a boost during the Age of Exploration, when international sea traders returned from southeast Asia with a species of palm called rattan. Rattan is stronger than traditional European wicker materials, although the rattan stem can be separated so the softer inner core can be used for wicker. The 1800s brought immense popularity for wicker in Europe, England, and North America. It was used outdoors as well as indoors.

People in the Victorian Era believed it to be more sanitary than upholstered furniture, it was inexpensive, wicker resisted the elements, and the material was adaptable to many styles.

In the United States, Cyrus Wakefield began constructing rattan furniture in the 1850s. He first used rattan that had been offloaded from ships, where it was used as ballast, but his designs soon caught the attention of the population and he began importing the material himself. Wakefield’s company became one of the leading industries in wicker furniture; it later merged with the Heywood Chair Manufacturing Company (a wooden chair company that had invented a mechanical process for weaving wicker seats) to form the Heywood-Wakefield of Gardner, Massachusetts, one of the oldest and most prominent North American wicker manufacturers. In recent times, its aesthetic was influenced heavily by the Arts and Crafts movement at the turn of the 20th century. Wicker is still a popular material.

Antique wicker products are highly sought after by collectors. Reproductions of furniture and accent pieces are also sold for indoor and outdoor use. Wicker can be made from natural or synthetic materials, or a combination. In furniture, often a frame is made of stiffer materials, after which more pliant material is woven into the frame to fill it.[citation needed] In a smaller piece such as a basket, a strengthening frame is not needed so the entire piece is woven from the wicker material.

Natural wicker is well known for its strength and durability, and for the high level of beauty and comfort that an expert craftsman can produce. Materials used can be any part of a plant, such as the cores of cane or rattan stalks, or whole thicknesses of plants, as with willow switches.

Other popular materials include reed and bamboo. Natural wicker requires maintenance to keep it in good shape. Basket-making in Malta is an old craft developed for the needs of the fishing industry, agriculture and for households.

Wicker furniture in Malta is also a flourishing craft industry today; many workshops export their goods.

Mezza2 canework3

Fishing traps (nases) were traditionally made with disa, a fine reed-like material, but these days they are made out of nylon, which is virtually indestructible – but less attractive.

Traps, used to catch bogue (vopi) and picarel (arznell), are usually set in the afternoon and they are pulled out of the water after four or five hours. Normally, about 15 of these pots are set at a depth of 15 to 20 metres and kept some one metre above the seabed. Bait consisting of bread mashed with finely powdered dried beans is placed hanging on the side of the pot and the fish enter through the bottom constriction attracted by the bait.

This kind of fishing takes place all the year round and the fish caught in the traps are fried, if big enough, or for fish soup.

The nases tal-arznell are only used in Gozo. They are employed in the same manner as the traps for bogue but no bait is required because it is thought that the fish enter the pot to spawn.

This kind of fishing takes place from March to mid-May.



Fabrics & Knitwear

cottonWeaving is one of the oldest crafts known to man. Its origin and development is closely tied to the history of mankind. The need to wear some kind of clothing to keep warm urged our ancestors to weave some type of cloth.

Thousands of years ago our forefathers wove clothing by using natural grasses, leafstalks, palm leaves, and thin strips of wood. Later they started weaving sheep’s wool and cotton to make better and warmer material. One can say that weaving and civilization developed together. Weaving is the process of making cloth, rugs, blankets, wall hangers and various other products by crossing two sets of thread over and under each other. Usually weavers use threads from natural fibre like cotton, silk and wool, but thin and narrow strips of almost any flexible material, be it natural or man-made, can be woven. In the Maltese Archipelago weaving dates back to the prehistoric era. It is firmly believed that the Phoenicians introduced dyeing skills to this craft. Since classical times, the Maltese Islands have been renowned for the excellence of the local cloth.

Roman senator Cicero in his report, during the trial of Gaius Verres (70 B.C), refers to quantities of Maltese cloth that had been stolen. He also notes that Malta had become “….. a weavingmanufactory for weaving women’s garments”.

The cotton industry also thrived in tandem with the weaving industry. In fact, due to the cotton plant which was introduced to these Islands by the Arabs, almost every household had its loom. However while the cotton industry thrived up to the early 19th century and then declined slowly by the end of the century, weaving in the Maltese Islands experienced a steep decline in the second half of the 20th Century.

Today few weavers still operate on traditional hand looms and it is here that people like Alda Bugeja play an extremely important role to try to prevent a natural death of this traditional craft.

The wool industry remained small, but Gozo today produces useful heavy knitted garments and rugs. They produce a wide range of woolen and fabric garments and accessories including skirts, handbags, ties and wall tapestries



Pottery & Glassware

pottery2Pottery ranks among the most ancient of Maltese crafts. Many pieces unearthed from the Megalithic period are works of art in their own right, such as the ‘The Sleeping Lady’ found at the Hypogeum, the most precious of all.

The prehistory of the Maltese islands has been divided in phases, which are named for the different styles of ceramic wares excavated by archaeologists from various sites around the islands. The corresponding BCE dates are calibrated radiocarbon dates (Renfrew 1972). Immigrants crossed over from Sicily around 5000 BCE. They were farmers and they brought over domesticated animals and various seeds. The pottery of this first phase known as GHAR DALAM – from a cave in the south of Malta – has similarities to that found in Monte Kronio, close to Agrigento in Sicily. After a century had passed the GREY SKORBA pottery (from the dull grey ware which followed the Ghar Dalam ceramics) started to be given a reddish coating, and this became recorded as the RED SKORBA phase. The ZEBBUG phase ware with its different worked clay, and decorated pear shaped ceramics, was introduced to Malta by a new group of immigrants that followed the previous population. These new immigrants developed into an independent insular population which seems to have lived quietly for some 500 years – this included the next MGARR phase. Then inexplicably they started suddenly to construct Malta’s magnificent temples.

During the GGANTIJA phase the first temples were built, and a lot of ceramic ware was decorated with a new technique – surface scraping of the ware, after firing. The SAFLIENI phase followed that, and introduced new pottery styles and decorations. The apex of the temple culture was reached in the TARXIEN phase. During these centuries many temples were built, refurbished and enlarged . Tarxien ceramics were richly decorated and many elaborate designs were used.

At the end of this phase the temple culture mysteriously disappeared, and it seems that the islands were abandoned for some time. Following an interval of some decades, the islands became repopulated. These new people settled the islands during the BRONZE (and IRON) phase. The ceramics from this period are dull and unimpressive. In the BORG IN-NADUR phase we see the introduction of fortified villages, and the use of shallow storage pits dug out of the rock. Most of the ceramics of this phase have open forms and stand on a conical base.

Today, the pottery industry creates useful and fun objects, household items and souvenirs ranging from candlesticks, pendants, decorative tiles to lamps and flower pots. Earthenware clay is initially liquified and poured into different moulds and left there for about an hour. Each item is then left to dry and the extra bits are removed to ensure a smooth surface. Another way to produce pottery is with the potter’s wheel, which is considered the most sophisticated pottery-making technique, invented in the 4th millennium B.C.

The potter uses both hands – one to shape the inside and the other to shape the outside. Both hands are free to shape the pot from a ball of clay centered on the rotating wheel. During the first firing, the temperature is around 1020 degrees Celsius. After this, the pottery is taken out of the kiln for hand painting, design and glazing in a wide range of colours and shades. Hand painting is carried out to individual clients’ expectations.

Master craftsmen hand paint and decorate a large variety of items and they also create hand-built figurines. The items are then loaded back into the kiln for the second firing which ‘registers’ the colours and glazing. Here, the temperature reaches 970 degrees Celsius. Pottery is usually ready to be put up for sale 10 days after the initial process is started. glass5

Glassware is a relatively new craft, although the industry was present on the islands in Phoenician times. Entirely mouth blown and handmade, much of the glassware today is a type of original Maltese glass in strong Mediterranean colours

The complicated process begins with multicoloured beads, which are blown into a shape. Clear glass is then placed around the coloured glass and a shape is designed. This technique produces objects of art with an interesting interplay of colours.

Maltese glass production really began in 1968, When Michael Harris from the UK moved here to set up Mdina Glass, which began producing freeformed organic glassware, often in colours inspired from the sea, sand, earth and sky. Mdina glass was an instant success, partly due to the strong tourist industry of Malta, and prompted several other Maltese glass companies to form, such as Mtarfa, Gozo, and Phoenician glass. Significant changes in glassmaking techniques, production processes and product range mark the 1990s. Basic raw materials were changed for those of a much higher quality. In 1990, Mdina Glass introduced lampworking techniques to Malta, and by 1995 its artisans were also honing their skills in applying the newly introduced fusion techniques to a whole new range of products.

New Italian glassmaking techniques, such as incalmo, filigrana and murrine were introduced for the first time in Malta.

The art of glass making.

The main ingredient for making glass is silica sand, which can be found in many places around the world including Belgium and Italy but not in Malta. Lead content makes for softer glass, while the addition of certain chemicals gives a different colour. For example, selenium and metal give a greenish colour while real gold-leaf and silver is sometimes sandwiched in the glass while it is hot.

By the 15th Century approximately 14,000 people were involved in making glass in Morano, Venice – some prepared the composition, others built the furnaces, others made ceramic pots… they worked the glass on round-shaped furnaces with several pots of different coloured glass, using coal and wood as fuel, and many people died from tuberculosis as a result.

Eventually the traditional round furnace was substituted for a continuous furnace and a tank furnace, which utilised gas oil and gas although nowadays most use light oil.


Ganutell is a Maltese art form of making artificial flowers from wire, thread, and beads. In his introduction to the book Ganutell by Maria Kerr, the Maltese scholar and historian Guido Lanfranco states that in Maltese eighteenth and nineteenth century history, one finds numerous references to ganutell which can be considered to be the Maltese art of making artistic flowers. The word ganutell is derived from the Italian cannotiglio and in fact this craft, which can also be considered to be an art, was “imported” to Malta during the eighteenth century from mainland Europe.

The way the craft eventually evolved has made it distinctively Maltese. This craft had its ups and downs and by the mid-twentieth century a considerable section of the Maltese population hardly knew of the existence of ganutell and only a few had mastered the various techniques of ganutell.

The techniques had been passed on from generation to generation by word of mouth with little or no documentation until it seemed that this craft was destined to be forgotten.

History of Ganutell

Flowers were always used as a means of decoration with artificial flowers being first used in Eastern countries.

These Flowers made of different material such as fabric, paper, seashells, wood shavings, ribbons, and silk were mostly used for decorating dresses and hats and years later were mounted to decorate houses and churches.

These beautiful mounts, which were kept under glass domes can still be found in private collections and in churches. ganutellIn the sixteenth century our ancestors made use of the spiral gold and silver wire called canutiglia, and together with silk thread, glass beads, pearls, gems, and gold and silver wire, made these beautiful flowers called Ganutell. In fact the word Ganutell is derived from the Spanish word canutillo or the Italian word canutiglia.

This craft or better still art was practised in monastries and apart from the nuns,few indeed were those who really mastered the craft.

The knights of St John commissioned nuns and monks to produce beautiful mounts to be given as gifts to Popes and Royalties. In 1775 mounts were sent to Rome as gifts for the Pope. In 1787, Grand Master De Rohan sent a mount to Catherine of Russia.

A very precious mount enjoys pride of place in a small chapel in Lija – Madonna tal-Mirakli Chapel. This was a present to the Virgin Mary from the cousin of Pope Pius IX who took refuge in Malta during the risorgimento. There are many more of these artistic treasures for as time went by even monks in monastries worked Ganutell. ganutell5Because of the second world war the art of ganutell almost came to an end as only a handful continued to practice this art.

In 1970 enormous interest was shown in natural flower arranging, indoor plants and dry flower techniques. Attractive as these were, they could never replace Ganutell.

The late nineties brought about a sudden revival of the Ganutell flowers.

Rayon floss is spun with silver gold or coloured wire on a wooden spindle. Once the thread is prepared, various petals are worked. These petals can also be trimmed with zig-zag or twisted wire, or decorated with colourful glass beads, Once the required number of petals is complete, the flower is mounted. The required number of flowers to form a bouquet or, to give it its technical name, the mount, must then be made. The mount must obviously be designed beforehand, giving due regard to colour and form, and when these together with all the necessary leaves and flowers are in the hands of the artist, the end result is sure to be an awe inspiring work of art. The finished mount is usually placed under a glass dome or placed in a box-frame to help preserve it and is normally placed in a prominent place to be admired by family and friends.

Ganutell is presently being also used to make head dresses for weddings and special occasions, wedding and Holy Communion dresses are also being trimmed with ganutell flowers. Notwithstanding the fact that the flowers are somewhat fragile, they are strongly gaining in popularity and this augurs well for a craft which had practically died out. Ganutell (usually Handcrafted Flowers) is a Maltese method of creating flowers by utilising wire and embroidery floss.

Ganutell is an old and unique Maltese Art which has just recently been revived. ganutell2 Ganutell flower making consists of first and foremost twisting silver or gold plated thin wire with thread. Thin thread of various colours is used to produce different colour schemes. Soon after assembling the wire and thread, this is twisted over a slightly thicker silver/gold plated wire to produce petals. After creating a number of petals, these are assembled around a bead or pearl so that a flower is shaped. Different sizes are produced according to the sizes of the petals twisted. The petals can be made of different patterns. Besides, sequins, beads and small pearls could also be inserted within each petal to offer a richer looking flower.

The advantages, when compared to beaded flowers, are:

  • the flowers are light weight
  • the flowers have a satin-look and easier to create.
  • the flowers incorporate several basic techniques and all are outstandingly elegant.
  • these flowers are infinitely suited to apparel and jewellery applications.

ganutelljvBy courtesy of Josephine Vassallo

Visual arts

The Neolithic temple builders 3800-2500 BCE endowed the numerous temples of Malta and Gozo with intricate bas relief designs, including spirals evocative of the tree of life and animal portraits, designs painted in red ochre, ceramics, and a vast collection of human form sculptures, particularly the Venus of Malta.

These can be viewed at the temples themselves (most notably, the Hypogeum and Tarxien Temples), and at the National Museum of Archaeology in Valletta. The Roman period introduced highly decorative mosaic floors, marble colonnades and classical statuary, remnants of which are beautifully preserved and presented in the Roman Domus, a country villa just outside the walls of Mdina.

The early Christian frescoes that decorate the catacombs beneath Malta reveal a propensity for eastern, Byzantine tastes. These tastes continued to inform the endeavours of medieval Maltese artists, but they were increasingly influenced by the Romanesque and Southern Gothic movements.

Towards the end of the 15th century, Maltese artists, like their counterparts in neighbouring Sicily, came under the influence of the School of Antonello da Messina, which introduced Renaissance ideals and concepts to the decorative arts in Malta. The artistic heritage of Malta blossomed under the Knights of St. John, who brought Italian and Flemish Mannerist painters to decorate their palaces and the churches of these islands, most notably, Matteo Perez d’Aleccio, whose works appear in the Magisterial Palace and in the Conventual Church of St. John, and Filippo Paladini, who was active in Malta from 1590 to 1595. For many years, Mannerism continued to inform the tastes and ideals of local Maltese artists.

The arrival in Malta of Caravaggio, who painted at least seven works during his 15-month stay on these islands, further revolutionized local art. Two of Caravaggio’s most notable works, The Beheading of St. John the Baptist, and St. Jerome are on display in the Oratory of St. John’s Co-Cathedral, Valletta. His legacy is evident in the works of local artists Giulio Cassarino (1582–1637) and Stefano Erardi (1630–1716). However, the Baroque movement that followed was destined to have the most enduring impact on Maltese art and architecture. The severe, Mannerist interior of St. John’s Co-Cathedral was transformed into a Baroque masterpiece by the glorious vault paintings of the celebrated Calabrese artist, Mattia Preti. Preti spent the last 40 years of his life in Malta, where he created many of his finest works, now on display in the Museum of Fine Arts, in Valletta. During this period, local sculptor Melchior Gafà (1639–1667) emerged as one of the top Baroque sculptors of the Roman School. Throughout the 18th century, Neapolitan and Rococo influences emerged in the works of Luca Giordano (1632–1705) and Francesco Solimena (1657–1747), and local artists Gio. Nicola Buhagiar (1698–1752) and Francesco Zahra (1710–1773). The Rococo movement was greatly enhanced by the relocation to Malta of Antoine de Favray (1706–1798), who assumed the position of court painter to Grand Master Pinto in 1744.

Neo-classicism made some inroads among local Maltese artists in the late 18th century, but this trend was reversed in the early 19th century, as the local Church authorities – perhaps in an effort to strengthen Catholic resolve against the perceived threat of Protestantism during the early days of British rule in Malta – favoured and avidly promoted the religious themes embraced by the Nazarene movement of artists. Romanticism, tempered by the naturalism introduced to Malta by Giuseppe Calì, informed the “salon” artists of the early 20th century, including Edward and Robert Caruana Dingli.

A National School of Art was established by Parliament in the 1920s, and during the reconstruction period that followed the Second World War, the local art scene was greatly enhanced by the emergence of the “Modern Art Group”, whose members included Josef Kalleya (1898–1998), George Preca (1909–1984), Anton Inglott (1915–1945), Emvin Cremona (1919–1986), Frank Portelli (b.1922), Antoine Camilleri (b.1922) and Esprit Barthet (b.1919).


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