A 19th Century crucifix attributed to Alessandro Farrugia is being restored through the support of Bank of Valletta.
Farrugia, or Mastru Xandru as he was better known, is one of the artisans who was born and lived at Zejtun. A student of renowned sculptor Mariano Gerada, he left a number of treasures, mostly carved in wood or stone in our churches all over the island, as well as stone statures as street shrines, particularly in Zejtun.
Found at the St. Barbara Church (tal-Kapuccini) in Kalkara, the sculpture is dated to 1851 and is carved out of wood and polychromed. The crucifix depicts Christ’s sacrifice, commitment, redemption and most of all love, however this particular work of art is much less grotesque and less focussed on the injuries inflicted on the body of Jesus Christ.
Charles Azzopardi, Head CSR Department at Bank of Valletta met Fr Miguel Zammit OFM CAP and Maria Grazia Zenzani and Valentina Lupo from Atelier Del Restauro when the crucifix was being transported to the restorers’ laboratory.
‘Preliminary studies shown that over the years, the statue was overpainted several times, which has altered the aesthetical qualities of work of art. At least two layers of overpainting were identified although it is very probable that more layers are present,’ said Ms Zenzani. ‘We will subject the crucifix to further observations and scientific investigations of the polychromy and its stratigraphy to better understand the extent of overpainting present as well as the manufacturing technique employed by the artist to ensure the optimal restoration techniques.’
‘The St. Barbara church and adjacent convent were built on a piece of land donated by Guzeppi Abela, after a request for a second convent and church in Birgu (Kalkara) was made by the Confraternity, and after the money was raised, work on the building commenced commenced in 1736,’ said Fr Zammit. ‘The crucifix is one of the most effigies in the convent and the studies by the conservators will be able to determine if the crown of thorns currently on the sculpture are original to the sculpture or a later addition as widely believed.’
This restoration initiative forms an integral part of the BOV’s ESG strategy, with the Bank always at the forefront in projects aimed to preserve the identity of our unique Maltese Community,’ said Charles Azzopardi. ‘We are looking forward to witnessing the artist’s genius once the overpainting of the crucifix is removed, and the preservation of the artistic will enable future generations to appreciate the work in a better state.’
Alessandro Farrugia (known as Mastru Xandru) was born in Zejtun on the 2nd February 1791. He was a student of the renowned sculptor Mariano Gerada and a carver of statues in stone and wood. Among the works carved by Xandru one should mention the titular processional statues of the Annunciation at Tarxien (1829), St. Mary at Mqabba (1837) and St. Paul at Safi (1844). One of his masterpieces is the Good Friday statue of Jesus Scourged at the Pillar (1844) found at Zejtun carved fully from one piece of wood. Xandru passed away on the 4th December 1871.