The Malta Society of Arts (MSA) has just published a significant publication titled Palazzo De La Salle: Genesis and Evolution to coincide with the celebrations of the Society’s 100 years at the Palazzo. The publication is a lavishly illustrated hardback volume containing 240 pages that bring together a collection of new essays penned by local academics and well-known personalities.
These essays offer new perspectives on the history of the Palazzo and shine a spotlight on some of the illustrious names who have either lived, worked, exhibited or performed there in its 400-year history. The book is a tribute to an architectural gem in our nation’s capital and to the Malta Society of Arts’ continued commitment to promote art, music and culture on the Island.
MSA President Arch. Adrian Mamo remarks that the publication of Palazzo de La Salle: Genesis and Evolution commemorates the 100 years that the MSA has been the custodian of Palazzo de La Salle, one of Valletta’s architectural gems. “The publication of this hardback volume is part of a series of year-long events that we have organised during 2023, destined to mark our prestigious Society,” says Mamo. “The publication will be on view, and available for sale, during all forthcoming events organised on the premises.”
Edited by Caroline Miggiani and Gabriel Zammit, the book contains 14 essays penned by well-known local scholars as well as personalities, most of whom were approached due to their past or present connection with the building or with the Malta Society of Arts. The subjects of the essays are varied, but they all offer well-researched facts, while also offering new perspectives on some of the subjects tackled. Four photographic essays by Alex Attard are also included in the publication: three in colour and a fourth one in black and white.
Academic Mevrick Spiteri writes about the genesis of Palazzo de La Salle, tracing its history from the laying of its foundation stones to its development into a palatial building from two separately owned late sixteenth century houses. Joan Abela focuses on the ownership of the building and writes about many of its more colourful and distinguished occupants, which included Grand Master Perellos y Rocafull and its eponymous residents, Fra Guglielmo and Fra Enrico de La Salle. Keith Sciberras provides the reader with a stylistic and detailed analysis of the architecture of the Palace and discusses the building’s unusual articulation dictated by the natural downward slope of the terrain.
The Department of Conservation and Built Heritage at the University of Malta’s essay provides details on how it conducted the conservation of the Palazzo’s private chapel and its two painted decorative schemes. Chris Grech focuses on Sir William Reid, Governor of Malta who was also the Malta Society of Arts’ first President. Karl Fiorini writes about his recent research into the numerous musical scores, technical textbooks and handwritten string ensemble arrangements held at the MSA Musical Archives.
Mariella Pisani Bencini gives an insider’s view into winning the prestigious Gold Medal in 2021 – a prize awarded on a yearly basis to a personality in the field of culture, music or art in Malta; while Marika Azzopardi focuses on the Society’s 100-year association with the historic building starting from 1923. Co-editor Caroline Miggiani also authored one of the essays, and in it she illustrates the Society’s turbulent life during the Second World War.
The raison d’être of the Society has always been the encouragement of art and artists. Authors Joseph Paul Cassar, Nikki Petroni and Roderick Camilleri discuss issues relating to secular and Sacred Art, and to the Modern aesthetic in Malta. They write about matters faced by local artists from the 1940s onwards, including indirect censorship of some of their works. Toni Sant gives a personal interpretation of the recently restored Sala Dei Cavalieri, which he calls a unique ‘performance space’ in which one can still experience ‘an enduring spectacle.’
Palazzo de La Salle: Genesis and Evolution is more than a marker for an important milestone. Both the Palazzo and the publication are storehouses of memory: they preserve traces of Malta’s political, historical and cultural changes within their ‘walls’.
The official launch of Palazzo de La Salle: Genesis and Evolution will take place on Thursday 17 August at 7pm at the Palazzo itself, in a joint launch of both the publication and the MSA’s Members Exhibition titled The Archive, which also forms part of the MSA’s 100 years at Palazzo de La Salle celebrations.
Palazzo de La Salle: Genesis and Evolution is a publication by the Malta Society of Arts and is published by Midsea Books. The book is on sale at the Malta Society of Arts and in selected branches of Agenda Bookshops for the price of €70. For more info, call the Malta Society of Arts on 21244400.
The MSA thanks the President and Committee of the MSA, photographers Alex Attard, Manuel Ciantar and Mark Scicluna, Manager of the MSA Joe Scerri, The National Archives of Malta, Muża, Joseph Mizzi of Midsea Books, all the contributing authors, as well as past Honorary Presidents of the MSA.