A Knights-era painting discovered during conservation works at the National Museum of Archaeology’s Gran Salon has been confirmed to depict Neptune, the Roman Sea God.

The painting was originally discovered in 2021 during the ongoing conservation project at the Gran Salon.

Having seen better days, the wall painting depicts the God of the Sea equipped with his trident and seated in the centre of a large seashell, Bank of Valletta said in a statement.

The painting stands above what used to be a recessed arch with a fireplace which, over time, was blocked off and redecorated. 

Conservators removed the bricks when they first spotted unique decorations completely different from those across the Gran Salon. A small opening was made, revealing a trident.

After discussions with several experts and the approval of the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage, conservators continued to remove stones to reveal the painting of Neptune.

Believing the painting to be from the late 17th to early 18th century, it is currently the only surviving element of the original decorative scheme of the Gran Salon, preceding redecoration done in the 19th century.

The Gran Salon, a majestic hall in Valletta’s Auberge de Provence, was built during the Knight’s period and is believed to have been fully decorated.

However, the original designs were removed or covered during the British period, they said.

BOV CEO Kenneth Farrugia expressed his excitement about the discovery and the doors it opens for Maltese history.

“We are indeed very excited to form part of this exciting discovery together with Heritage Malta and we are keen to follow any new information that this discovery will shed on the history of this magnificent hall,” Farrugia said.

“As a bank celebrating its 50th anniversary next year, and with over 200 years of history in Malta, the local heritage is very close to our hearts and forms an integral part of BOV’s community programme,” he said.

Heritage Malta COO Kenneth Gambin also shared his delight at the discovery, lauding the efforts of the conservators and BOV for their unwavering support.

Heritage Malta will make the painting accessible to the public but no dates have been given yet.

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