Project Date: 28 June 2023
The titular painting of Saint Joseph
The titular painting venerated inside the Parish Church of Kalkara depicts the patronage of Saint Joseph, and was composed by the renowned Maltese artist Giuseppe Calì. This artefact was signed by the author in reverse as a sign of protest in opposition to commissions given in other parishes to foreign artists for a lower fee. The painting was completed in 1898 for the price of £27.
During the Second World War, the previous Parish Church of Kalkara was heavily bombarded, resulting in its total destruction. Several works of art perished, including the previous titular statue of Saint Joseph but fortunately, Mons. Michael Gonzi, then Archbishop of Gozo and who hailed from the village, decided to transfer all the paintings of the Kalkara Parish Church to the Gozo Diocese for safe keeping.
Subsequent to the war, in 1944 Archbishop Mons. Gonzi bought a plot of land, known as ‘tal-Għeżieli’ from the Malta Gas Company, with the intention to build a new Parish Church dedicated to Saint Joseph.
Eventually, once constructed and blessed in 1952, all the saved paintings found their place back inside the Church, with the titular one bearing centre-piece attention. During the 1990s, even though the same artefact was damaged and hastily restored, was showing several wear and tear damages, including various cracks within the paint and some fading of colour.
The restoration works on the titular painting of Saint Joseph was carried out in the Restawr Arti workshop under the supervision of the restorer Semira Bugeja.
The titular painting of the Good Shepherd
Another masterpiece commission to Giuseppe Calì and found in the same Church is the one depicting the Good Shepherd, dated 1911. The painting, including its gilded frame, was commissioned by the British Naval Military Services as the titular painting of the Anglican Church which was situated at Villa Bighi Kalkara, then utilised as a Naval Hospital.
Following the hospital’s permanent closure in September 1970, the painting of the Good Shepherd together with its gilded frame and wooden altar were donated to the Kalkara Parish Church by Captain C.L.T McClintock on behalf of the British Naval Military Services.
These artefacts found their place in the centre of the left isle of the Church. Auspiciously, the wooden altar was restored in 2020 through a donation by the Malta Council for Science and Technology, later also commissioning the missing marble-top for the same altar.
The painting depicts Christ on earth holding a lamb and a staff in his left hand, while blessing with his right hand. Furthermore, a snake is seen coming out towards Christ through a hole in the wall.
Both the painting of the Good Shepherd and its frame show some signs of deterioration due to wear and tear issues. Accumulated residual dirt and the existent varnish are presently obscuring the overall appearance of the canvas and frame.
The restoration work on the titular painting of the Good Shepherd was carried out in the workshop of Atelier del Restauro Ltd under the supervision of restorer Valentina Lupo.
The soireè ‘Back with us’
The official inauguration of the restoration of the titular painting of Saint Joseph and The Good Shepherd, both works of art of the artist Giuseppe Calì, was held on Wednesday 28th of June at 7.15pm at the Kalkara Parish Church. During the soireè, Dr. Mark Sagona Ph.D., head of the Department of Art and Art History at the University of Malta, delivered a presentation on artist Giuseppe Calì and his artistic development.
Other presentations describing the restoration works carried out, were also made by restorers Valentina Lupo and Semira Bugeja respectively. To animate the evening, a musical quartet took part called ‘Tuba Quartet’ which is composed by Kevin Mizzi, John Coleiro and Daniel Zammit on the Euphonium together with Christopher Tanti on the Bass.
For this evening, members of parliament, distinguished guests, the youth of the parish, all the Kalkariżi together with the general public were invited to attend. Admission was free of charge.
This project is being carried out by Assoċjazzjoni Wirt il-Kalkara in collaboration with the Kalkara Parish of Saint Joseph and is co-financed by European Union funds under the LEADER+ programme and the NGO Co-Financing Fund, administered by the Malta Council for the Voluntary Sector on behalf of the Ministry for Inclusion, Voluntary Organisations and Consumer rights.