AN INTERIOR VIEW FROM THE CHAPEL OF ARAGON TO THE FRENCH CHAPEL, ST JOHN'S CO CATHEDRAL, VALLETTA [MALTA]
Pencil with watercolour & sepia washes
35.5 x 24.5 cm
Private Collection, Southwest England
This re-discovered work comes from the artist's trip to Malta, Sicily and further East in 1839, which may have been sponsored by the Duke of Devonshire, Gabriele's first patron. Many of the sketches and watercolours from this trip of 1839 remain in the Devonshire Collection at Chatsworth, kept in Album No.5, Carelli's Sketches, 1839, Sicily & the East. It is characteristic of Carelli’s early sparsely coloured drawings with sepia ink.
The main feature of this view, from one of Malta’s most ornate churches, is the ornate monument to Nicolas Cotoner i d'Olesa of Aragon (1608-1680), 61st Prince and Grand Master of the Knights of the Order of Malta. The monument was sculpted by the Italian Domenico Guidi (1625-1701), a well-known sculptor of the Baroque tradition who also completed commissions for the King of France. The slaves at the base of the sculpture are almost direct copies of those on Pietro Tacca's Monument of the Four Moors (1626) in Livorno. This mimicry was appropriate, as the slaves at the base of that statue symbolise the Ottomans over which Ferdinand I had triumphed. The Ottomans were the ever-present foe of the Order of Malta, and Cotoner significantly improved Malta’s fortifications against their attacks. The tomb itself was commissioned by the Knights in Malta but constructed in Italy, and when it arrived in Valletta it became clear that the Angel Blower's trumpet was too long for the space. There is therefore a small circular chunk cut out of the original wall, to fit the sculpture, which remains to this day.