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Collection Museum of the Order of St John, St John Ambulance, London
Artist Gianni, Girolamo (Italian artist, 1837-1895)
Date 1887 (dated)
Signed yes
Description The painting depicts a Maltese landscape, with the city of Mdina in the distance. In the foreground there are various picturesque figures of travellers, moving to and from the city. These include, from right to left: a mother holding a child by the hand, and rather improbably simultaneously balancing an amphora on her head in a pose reminiscent of classical sculpture; another mother holding an infant and riding on a donkey, so that one might almost think this was the 'Flight from Egypt'; a platoon of uniformed figures, although the detail is insufficient to tell if they are soldiers, or something more benevolent, like school-children; and what appears to be a priest, from the back at least. Gianni first came to Malta in 1866, on a short excursion to assess the market for his painting there. He obviously felt there was good money to be made, as he stayed, and, over the next twenty years, built up a successful business, eventually passed onto his two daughters. His success was founded on his ability to represent a nostalgic, romantic ideal of Malta that appealed to foreign visitors, particularly the British; a highly lucrative market, since Malta was governed by the British. It was not all tourist pictures though, he had some prominent patrons, including the Duke of Edinburgh and the Prince of Wales. Some confusion surrounds Gianni's first name; he signed himself 'G Gianni' and is often confused with the artist signing himself 'Gian Gianni', though they are distinct. The Getty Union List of Artist's Names recognises only Giancinto Gianni, but most Maltese authorities (including the National Museum of Fine Arts in Malta), now refer to him as Girolamo Gianni.
Inscription front lr 'G Gianni 1887'
Subject landscape (Mdina, Malta)
Measurements 22 x 53 cm (estimate)
Material oil on panel
Acquisition Details Bequeathed by Mrs Blanch Lintorn Orman 1941.
Provenance Purchased by Sir and Lady Lintorn Simmons, Malta, after 1884; by descent to Mrs Blanch Lintorn Orman.
Principal Exhibitions These pictures, and the rest of the Orman Bequest, comprising various Maltese memorabilia, were acquired by Sir and Lady Lintorn Simmons, after he was posted there as Governor in 1884. As such he is an archetypal exemplar of Gianni's clients; a visiting Englishman wishing to surround himself with romantic souvenirs of his time there. Blanch Lintorn Simmons (later Orman), was their daughter, and amongst her many accomplishments was the publication of one of the first, and most valuable, surveys of art in government properties in Malta; Description of the Governor's Palaces in Malta of Valletta, St Antonio and Verdala and Catalogue of the Pictures Malta, 1887 and 1895. The value of this work lies in it being an accurate record of paintings in the old palaces of the Order, 'found' by the British after the French surrender. A large number of these paintings are now in the National Museum of Fine Arts in Malta, so Blanch's catalogue helps fill in the gaps between the tenancy of the islands by the Order of St John, the French invasion, the British Protectorate, and the current independent State of Malta. The importance of her work to her contemporaries may be judged by the effusive comments in the foreword to the Catalogue; '...minutes of the executive Council held on the 3rd September 1888 under the Presidency of his Excellency Sir Lintorn Simmons...The report of the Superintendent of Public Works was considered as to pictures, the property of Government, many of which were outside the Palaces. Dr Mizzi said that he wished to take the opportunity for expressing the appreciation of the elected members of the interest and valuable work for the benefit of the National Collection of Pictures which had been contributed by Miss Simmons's publication on the Pictures of the Government Palaces, and he expressed a hope that this Catalogue would be completed. His Excellency acknowledged Dr Mizzi's complimentary expressions...'.
Rights Owner Museum of the Order of St John
Author Malcolm Barclay



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