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