Video: Parallel lives
Malta was fortunate to play host to two great Italian artists: Caravaggio (1571-1610) and Mattia Preti (1613-1699). Within a century they were able to leave a permanent mark on the local art and culture, executing the most significant artworks of what is known as the Maltese Baroque period. Though both arrived in Malta as established artists, they were nonetheless to have very different careers.
Caravaggio arrived in Malta as a fugitive in 1607 after the papal authority found him guilty of murdering a man in Rome during a brawl, and was granted hospitality by the Knights. The Grand Master was so impressed with his talent that he obtained special papal permission to appoint Caravaggio a Knight of Grace, despite his humble origins and the conviction for murder. A few months later, shortly after completing the dramatic Beheading of St John the Baptist for St John’s Co-Cathedral, Caravaggio got into trouble again and was imprisoned for brawling. He later escaped and fled to Messina, in Italy, where he died two years later at the age of 39.
The career of Mattia Preti was rather different; invited to Malta by the Grand Master himself, Preti arrived on the island in 1659. He established a reputation for hard work from the outset, hoping for an appointment by the Knights as their official painter. His busy workshop was to produce artworks to churches across the entire archipelago. Preti spent almost forty years in Malta, and died a prosperous and established artist in his adopted country in 1699, aged 86.
Malta is now home to two works by Caravaggio and approximately 150 others that are attributed either to Mattia Preti or to his workshop.
In this section of the app we will take you to Baroque churches, noble palaces and small villages, retracing the steps of these two Italian artists, on a journey back into history and an encounter with great art.