A painting discovered behind a blocked arch at the Gran Salon within the National Museum of Archaeology in Valletta has been confirmed as an image of Neptune, the Roman God of the Sea, following a conservation project held by Heritage Malta with Bank of Valletta’s (BOV) support.
The painting, which sees the god hold a trident in his hand, was first discovered in 2021 during the project. It stands above what used to be a recessed arch with a fireplace that was blocked and redecorated.
As they were removing the pointing of the blocked-off access, conservators witnessed decorative elements completely different from the current decorative scheme of the Gran Salon, and a small opening was thus made, revealing details of a trident.
Following discussions of the findings with several professionals, the conservation team and Heritage Malta experts, with the approval of the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage, continued to meticulously remove stones blocking the archway to reveal a painting of Neptune that could possibly date to the late 17th or early 18th century.
Neptune is seated in the centre of a large seashell, resting his left hand on a jar with flowing war, while holding the trident in his right hand. He is depicted in a green colour, with the experts claiming it might have been done so he imitates bronze statues. As part of the decorative scheme there are also some architectural features among other shells and fish. They claim that to date, this is the only surviving element of the original decorative scheme of the Gran Salon, a majestic hall in the Auberge de Provence – now housing the National Museum of Archaeology – which was most probably fully decorated during the Knight’s period, yet was redecorated during the British Period.
The restoration of the hall commenced in 2017 through a partnership between BOV and Heritage Malta, with the bank’s participation in the project forming part of its commitment to “support and assist the community in which it operates”, going beyond the provision of financial services but as an “active citizen of this community”.
BOV CEO Kenneth Farrugia and Chief Operating Officer (COO) Ernest Agius recently visited the Gran Salon to witness the discovery, and they were greeted by Heritage Malta COO Kenneth Gambin and the conservation team, who provided an update on the conservation process.
“As a bank celebrating its 50th anniversary next year, and with over 200 years of history in Malta, the local heritage is very close to our hearts and forms an integral part of BOV’s Community Programme,” Mr Farrugia said.
“We are indeed very excited to form part of this exciting discovery together with Heritage Malta and we are keen to follow any new information that this discovery will shed on the history of this magnificent hall,” he added.
Mr Gambin expressed his delight at the discovery of this early decorative scheme, which “further enhances” the Gran Salon’s value and beauty. He lauded the efforts of Heritage Malta’s conservators who had a crucial role in the project, and also thanked BOV for its “unwavering support”.
He remarked that Heritage Malta is eager to make this discovery accessible to the public, in line with its commitment to “bring Malta’s cultural heritage within the reach of the widest audience possible”.
Article credits: https://whoswho.mt/en/bov-and-heritage-malta-partnership-sees-exciting-discovery-of-neptune-painting-in-national-museum-of-archaeologyWorld’s first deepwater archaeological park inaugurated off Xlendi
At a depth of more than 110 metres, the world’s first deepwater archaeological park has been inaugurated off Xlendi in Gozo.
The park, designated as an Archaeological Zone at Sea in 2020, covers a total of 67,000 square metres.
Speaking during the park’s inauguration ceremony on the Xlendi waterfront, National Heritage Minister Owen Bonnici remarked that through the park, researchers and technical divers from all over the world can explore the history of Malta.
This archaeological park at the bottom of the sea has also been mapped out on the website www.underwatermalta.org following extensive work by Heritage Malta’s Underwater Cultural Heritage Unit, headed by Professor Timmy Gambin.
The artefacts were documented and are now offered through a virtual museum so that more people can appreciate the unique sites of our seas, said Bonnici.
Gambin said the launch of this unique park elevates the submerged deposits off Xlendi and enhances Gozo’s cultural heritage as well as its tourism product.
Through future collaborative efforts and thanks to the generous support of the Malta Airport Foundation, Gozo will continue to develop as a centre of excellence in the fields of underwater archaeology and heritage management, he said.
The park’s depth ranges between 105 and 115 metres, where the seabed consists of fine silt and sand punctuated by a series of rocky outcrops formed by extinct coral reefs.
Around these outcrops, there are concentrations of archaeological objects, mostly amphorae. It is highly likely that more archaeological remains are buried in the sediment, based on the continuous deposition of sediment from Xlendi Valley and the presence of partially buried objects.
Although the depths at which this park is found make it accessible only to a niche of technical divers, the virtual museum brings the discoveries closer to specialised audiences and the general public.
The park, sponsored by the Malta Airport Foundation, is the result of a collaborative effort between Heritage Malta’s Underwater Cultural Heritage Unit, the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage, the University of Malta, and the Munxar Local Council.
Gozo Minister Clint Camilleri said the park was an additional incentive for travellers to opt for Gozo as their destination of choice, offering them a distinct and unparalleled stay unlike any other.