The Malta Turner went on display yesterday at the National Museum of Fine Arts, in Valletta.

HSBC Bank Malta is officially loaning to the museum the painting of Grand Harbour executed in 1830 by England's foremost watercolourist, J.M.W. Turner.

Education Minister Louis Galea and HSBC's chief executive officer Chris Hothersall officially inaugurated the exhibition, which will continue throughout next month.

The painting will remain on display at the museum, even after the exhibition comes to a close.

The gathering was also addressed by Alex Grech, chairman of Heritage Malta; Antonio Espinoza Rodriguez, the curator of the Museum of Fine Arts and Philip Farrugia Randon, who negotiated the purchase of the Malta Turner in 1998 and has written the book "Turner's Malta Watercolour".

"This painting is very important to Malta's artistic heritage and it is therefore fitting that it should be displayed at the National Museum of Fine Arts where everyone can enjoy it. The bank's decision is an expression of HSBC's commitment to be an integral part of the local community," said Mr Hothersall.

Mr Grech welcomed HSBC's initiative as a first in terms of corporate sponsorship for the new agency.

"Heritage Malta is launching a Corporate Patrons Programme later this year. HSBC's initiative is an encouraging signal of what can be achieved through public-private partnership. The bank's involvement extended beyond the loan of the painting to a general facelift of the museum, and security and insurance for the exhibit. Credit is due to both HSBC and Heritage Malta project teams for their excellent work."

The Malta Turner, which is executed with great mastery, was commissioned by the engravers William and Edward Finden. The painting served as a basis for an engraving in a book, published by John Murray, on the life and travels of the eminent poet Lord Byron, who visited Malta in 1809 and 1811.

The painting had at least 13 different owners including the renowned writer, art critic, scholar and collector John Ruskin, and Robert Durning Holt who was Lord Mayor of Liverpool. Mid-Med Bank (now HSBC Bank Malta plc) purchased the Turner when it came up for auction at Sotheby's, London, in July 1998.

In November 2002, HSBC Bank Malta announced its decision to loan the Malta Turner to the National Museum of Fine Arts, following discussions with Education Minister Louis Galea.

Since then, preparatory work has been undertaken by HSBC to enable the museum to host this precious painting.

The Malta Turner exhibition is open to the public at the National Museum of Fine Arts from Monday to Saturday between 8.15 a.m. and 5 p.m. and on Sundays from 8.15 a.m. to 4.15 p.m. Entrance is free.

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