Her­itage Malta main­tains €75,000 Mat­tia Preti paint­ing is an orig­i­nal

Malta Independent - - NEWS - He­lena Grech

Fol­low­ing re­search it has car­ried out, Her­itage Malta yes­ter­day de­fended its €75,000 pur­chase of an orig­i­nal Mat­tia Preti paint­ing, say­ing that the all ev­i­dence found so far points to it be­ing an orig­i­nal.

Prin­ci­pal re­storer An­thony Spag­nol said that it is un­doubt­edly gen­uine. In a press brief­ing yes­ter­day morn­ing, rep­re­sen­ta­tives from Her­itage Malta ex­plained that there were clear ref­er­ences to Preti at­tri­bu­tions when Aric­cia (the paint­ing) came up on the mar­ket back in the 1960s.

Se­nior cu­ra­tor San­dro De­bono said that, from their own re­search, the only ev­i­dence they could find to ques­tion whether it was Preti alone who was the painter was a ref­er­ence in a book that said that there could have been the in­volve­ment of another artist. He added that, even so, with a paint­ing that is so large, it was not un­com­mon for the prin­ci­ple artist to have some help. “That was the way things were done,” Mr De­bono said. This is in stark con­trast with com­ments that the paint­ing was ac­tu­ally done in one of Preti’s work­shops and not by him.

Her­itage Malta bought the paint­ing from the French auc­tion house Artcu­rial. It was pre­sented to them as an orig­i­nal Mat­tia Preti paint­ing, Mr De­bono said, point­ing out that the auc­tion house has a rep­u­ta­tion to main­tain.

Con­tro­versy arose af­ter Keith Sciber­ras, head of the His­tory of Art Depart­ment at the Univer­sity of Malta, in­sisted that the paint­ing was part of a replica by Preti’s work­shop. Asked to com­ment on this, Mr De­bono said that ev­ery­one has a right to their opin­ion, but he in­sisted that they had car­ried out ex­ten­sive re­search and ev­ery­thing they had found pointed to the paint­ing be­ing an orig­i­nal.

It was pointed out that Artcu­rial was bound to a two-year guar­an­tee, so if new in­for­ma­tion came to light the auc­tion house would ei­ther rene­go­ti­ate the price with Her­itage Malta or ne­go­ti­ate a re­turn al­to­gether.

The paint­ing ac­quired is just one-third of a much larger piece: one of the re­main­ing parts be­ing in Italy and the other form­ing part of a pri­vate col­lec­tion.

Mr De­bono in­sisted that this was an aca­demic dis­cus­sion, and that any new ev­i­dence would be con­sid­ered as part of the aca­demic process.

“Paint­brush strokes, the prepara­tory work prior to the paint­ing stage and the ac­tual can­vas all point to this be­ing an orig­i­nal piece by Preti,” said Mr De­bono.

It was said that Her­itage Malta’s bud­get for the paint­ing was €85,000, but they had man­aged to ac­quire the piece for €10,000 less.

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