A range of beautifully crafted maiolica and porcelain vessels, used both for display and for serving food during formal banquets in Hospitaller Malta, is being exhibited at the Romegas Hall, National Museum of Archaeology, until the end of December.
The exhibition delves deeply into how food, art and politics came together in the ritual of Baroque banqueting – the formal and communal sharing of food and drink – between the 16th and the 18th century in Malta. During that period, under the Order of St John, Malta imported many aspects of the European dining culture, mainly from Renaissance Italy and from Rococo France.
An especially striking feature was the Convito – the formal banquet – which provided a theatrical backdrop for political discussion and intrigue. Indeed, the Convito was a piece of social theatre in which the tableware was as important a prop as the food itself.
The items on display at this exhibition were all discovered in archaeological investigations in Malta, or were conserved in local museum collections. Most of the artefacts are being exhibited publically for the first time. They include two late Renaissance plates belonging to Cardinal Farnese’s famous credenza, a Chinese Ming porcelain import to Malta, important examples of South Italian heraldic plates, and a wide range of French and North Italian faience, including examples in the Rococo style of Moustier.
The exhibition, entitled Fare Convito: The Archaeology of Banqueting in Hospitaller Malta (16th to 18th century), was launched by Noel Zammit, Heritage Malta’s Chief Executive Officer. He was shown around the exhibition by Sharon Sultana, Senior Manager, Archaeology and Natural History, and Nathaniel Cutajar, Principal Curator for Medieval Archaeology.
Mr Zammit lauded the team behind this exhibition for approaching the subject of historical archaeology in a novel and multi-disciplinary manner, combining elements from archaeology, history, art history and anthropology. He thanked the Malta National Library and the Metropolitan Chapter of Malta for closely collaborating with the National Museum of Archaeology, the Inquisitor’s Palace, MUŻA, the Grand Master’s Palace and the Gozo Museums so that this exhibition could come to fruition.
Admission to the exhibition at the National Museum of Archaeology is free. The exhibition will move to the Inquisitor’s Palace from January until March 2024. A booklet will be available for sale at both exhibition venues.
25th October 2023
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