Heritage Malta ‘100% certain’ €75,000 painting is Mattia Preti original

Heritage Malta stands by decision to purchase Preti painting, publishes evidence showing it is an autograph original

Heritage Malta has published the evidence which back its decision to purchase a fragment of a Mattia Preti painting, which some critics have described as a “replica.”

In an informal press briefing, Heritage Malta officials said they are 100% sure the painting is original and that they stand by their decision to purchase the fragment of a painting by the 17th century master for €75,000.

Principal conservationist Tony Spagnol said that research and the conservation report confirm that it is an autograph original.

“The manufacturing technique shows that the fragment matches the other fragment owned by Palazzo Chigi in Ariccia, Rome which is displayed as a Preti piece,” he said.

The purchase of the painting is a the centre of an academic controversy after the eccentric Italian art critic and television personality Vittorio Sgarbi claimed that the painting is a replica made by Preti’s workshop.

However, Spagnol explained that studies carried out on the fragment bought by Heritage Malta confirm earlier research and the materials used, the manufacturing technique and preparations all point towards a Preti autograph original.

The curator of the Malta Museum of Fine Arts, Sandro Debono, explained that different versions of the painting exist and the majority of art critics and Preti experts agree that the painting bought by Heritage Malta – a one-third fragment of a large painting – is a Preti original and not a fake or a replica.

“The painting was auctioned as a Preti original and not as the work of his workshop,” he said, adding that the majority of experts, including John Spike, agree that the other two fragments, the one in Ariccia and the other which is in a private collection, are Preti originals.

Sgarbi himself, in a book he edited and published in 2013 says that the Ariccia fragment – known as the Campaspe – is a Preti original and the intervention of his workshop is “plausible.”

While recognising that other versions of the painting exist, Debono said that the painting is guaranteed for two years, adding that the auction house – Artcurial – would never risk putting its reputation in the balance.