Wall paintings that document the Great Siege to be restored

A series of wall paintings at the Grand Master’s Palace in Valletta that provide a historically accurate depiction of the Great Siege will be conserved in a three-year project

One of 12 paintings known as the D'Aleccio cycle depicting the Great Siege of 1565 (Photo: Daniel Cilia)
One of 12 paintings known as the D'Aleccio cycle depicting the Great Siege of 1565 (Photo: Daniel Cilia)

The Great Siege of 1565 was documented in 12 episodes on the walls of the Grand Master’s Palace in Valletta 12 years after the event that shaped Malta’s history.

Known as D’Aleccio’s cycle, the wall paintings give the most detailed and historically accurate visual document of the Great Siege. They are found in the grand council chamber.

Another of the paintings that form D'Aleccio's cycle (Photo: Daniel Cilia)
Another of the paintings that form D'Aleccio's cycle (Photo: Daniel Cilia)

Drawn from many eyewitness accounts and written narratives, these paintings constitute an important historical document, serving as an enduring symbol in defining Maltese identity whilst also being a threshold in the history of art in Malta.

The Great Siege wall paintings were executed by the Italian artist, Matteo Perez d’Aleccio, who was specifically invited to come over to Malta in 1577 to depict the Great Siege events by Grand Master Fra Jean de Cassiere. The Grand Master was a Great Siege veteran himself.

D'Aleccio's cycle is found at the Grand Master's Palace in Valletta
D'Aleccio's cycle is found at the Grand Master's Palace in Valletta

The Great Siege is depicted in 12 episodes interspaced by allegorical figures as a frieze decorating the upper part of the walls of the hall presenting the four-month siege in a narrative sequence.

The cycle was partially conserved between 2001 and 2005 by the University of Dresden, but the project was not completed. It left approximately one third of the paintings still in need of conservation. 

Now, the Department of Conservation and Built Heritage of the University of Malta and Heritage Malta are embarking on a partnership, under the auspices of the Office of the President of Malta, to conserve the rest of the cycle.

Heritage Malta Chairman Anton Refalo
Heritage Malta Chairman Anton Refalo

The announcement was made on Tuesday morning and the three-year project is expected to start in October 2018.

The conservation will remove surface soiling which currently darkens the wall paintings while improving the legibility of the cycle as a whole. 

The project is expected to cost €300,000 and the Research Trust of the University of Malta (RIDT) has been tasked with raising the necessary €funds.

It is for support from all sectors of society. The Gasan Foundation has already committed to support the project with an initial donation of €50,000, which will enable the project to kick off.

Discussions with other entities who have already shown interest in supporting the project are underway.

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