The conference ‘Perspectives on the decorative arts in 19th-century Malta’, organised by Dr Mark Sagona and Dr Roberta Cruciata for the Department of Art and Art History in the Faculty of Arts at the University of Malta, is the first edition of what is projected to become a bi-annual focus on recent and ongoing research on the multi-faceted nature of the decorative arts. It is intended to generate greater interest in a fascinating artistic field which has, until recently, been given little academic attention in Malta. 

The Maltese Islands offer ample scope for the research and understanding of decoration and ornament, which is present in myriad media, ranging from silver to glass. The decorative arts exist in abundance in different forms and this is an area of art-historical study which is still in its infancy in Malta. One of the aims of the conference is also to underscore the importance of the decorative arts within the larger local and international artistic contexts. 

The study of the field of the decorative arts in the Department of Art and Art history is spearheaded by Dr Sagona who has, in recent years, pioneered research in the subject. It has now become an independent area of study within the Department and several research projects have been or are being undertaken.

In 2012, Dr Sagona introduced for the very first time at the University a study-unit dedicated to the decorative arts and in 2015, together with Francesca Balzan, also offered a similar course within the University’s Programme for the Liberal Arts and Sciences. 

For this conference, Dr Sagona has teamed up with a long-time collaborator of the Department, Dr Cruciata from the Università degli Studi di Palermo, to bring together local and international scholars and researchers who will share aspects of recent and ongoing research on ornamental drawings, silver, jewellery, marble and glass. 

Dr Cruciata knows Malta very well and has worked on a doctoral thesis on Sicilian decorative arts for Malta. The theme of the conference for this year is the 19th century and is intended to highlight the important developments in the production of ornamental drawings, in the creation of silver artefacts, jewellery, works in marble and glass. The conference will also pave the way to future research through the introduction of new themes. 

The six speakers include Dr Sagona, Dr Cruciata, Prof. Roberto Zanon from the Academy of Fine Arts in Venice, Francesca Balzan from Fondazzjoni Patrimonju Malti, Alaine Apap Bologna, a veteran researcher of Maltese silver, and Jessica Muscat, who is concluding her MA thesis on marble production in Malta. 

The conference will take place on Thursday and will kick off at 5pm at the Italian Cultural Institute at St George’s Square, Valletta, with a brief address by the gead of the Department of Art and Art History, Prof. Keith Sciberras.


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