The monument to Queen Victoria in Republic Square in front of the National Library in Valletta has just been given a makeover by a team of conservators from Heritage ResCo.
“The monument, which was paid for by public subscription and marked the Queen’s Golden Jubilee, was inaugurated on August 5, 1891. Her majesty is shown wearing a lace shawl, in reference to the fact that she had ordered ‘eight dozen pairs long and eight dozen pairs short mitts, besides a scarf’ of Malta lace,” said James Licari, one of the conservators from Heritage ResCo. The other conservators are Frank Chetcuti and Ingrid Ross.
The statue was in dire need of restoration primarily because of the damage caused by the pigeon colonies that roost in the square. The two inscriptions engraved on the side of the pedestal are barely legible due to extensive erosion.
The five fingers from the queen’s left hand were missing, as was a part of the coronet and the top part of the royal sceptre. The pedestal was chipped in various sections probably from shrapnel during World War II.
Another area of damage possibly caused during the war is a slight dislocation of the parts composing the pedestal that have slipped in a way that they are not in line with each other. This was left to respect its historical significance. Vibrations caused by bombs had probably also damaged the edge of the cloak that flows out onto the pedestal.
The monument was sculpted in Palermo by Giuseppe Valenti who became known in Malta in 1885 when he was commissioned to do a seated figure of St Publius for Mdina Cathedral.
“It is a curious fact that the British commissioned an Italian sculptor rather than a British national to produce this memorial,” Mr Licari noted.
There is a British coat-of-arms on the front and a Maltese coat-of-arms on the back, both cast in bronze.
M. Demajo Group and Din l-Art Ħelwa sponsored the conservation-restoration work. The Ministry of Resources and Rural Affairs provided the scaffolding.