A wall painting, most likely dating to the period of the Knights of St John, was discovered during the restoration project of the Gran Salon, a unique surviving element that could reveal information of the decorative scheme prior to the early 19th century.

The Gran Salon is a majestic hall and one of the most captivating features of the Auberge de Provence which houses the National Museum of Archaeology. Heritage Malta has embarked on an extensive conservation and restoration project since 2017 thanks to the support of  Bank of Valletta. Scientific analyses and data extraction on the early 19th century mural paintings is enabling their conservation in the best possible manner. To date, the conservators have restored and conserved practically half of the Gran Salon walls.

Recently the restorers discovered evidence of an arch that had been blocked and historical research identified two fireplaces, likely introduced by the British in the 19th century within one of the walls. While removing the pointing of the blocked-off access, the restorers witnessed decorative elements completely different from the current decorative scheme of the Gran Salon.

A small section of the arch was opened to assess this discovery further and exposed the decorative scheme, which was likely covered by the current one and which, although covered in soot, was relatively intact. The uncovered part revealed part of a hand holding a trident, an image usually associated with a mythological figure. The rest of the painting is currently behind the fireplace shaft and the rest of the arch. This painting is, to date, the only surviving element which has potential to reveal information about the decorative scheme of the Gran Salon, preceding the early 19th century redecoration of this important ceremonial space.

BOV Chief Marketing Officer Peter Halsor met with Heritage Malta CEO Noel Zammit and COO Kenneth Gambin to take a closer look at this very important discovery.

‘Bank of Valletta has participated in many prestigious restoration projects throughout the years in line with its ESG ambitions and its role within the Maltese Community,’ said Mr Halsor. ‘This is a very exciting find that will definitely shed more light on the history of this building throughout the years through a project supported by the Bank.’

‘This is the start of a new journey into the restoration of this impressive ceremonial space,’ said Mr Zammit. ‘With the minimum intervention possible, a small part of the arch was opened to assess further and we will now be undertaking an interdisciplinary investigation to better assess and research the discovery of this early decorative scheme.’

‘The restoration project started four years ago through the BOV-Heritage Malta Partnership and our dedicated conservators have practically restored and conserved half of the Gran Salon walls following scientific analysis and continuous data extraction,’ continued the Heritage Malta CEO. ‘We look forward to opening up this magnificent space to the public once restoration is complete, hopefully with other discoveries and surprises that we will encounter along this journey.’


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