Distinguished Maltese personalities series - Giuseppe Calì (1846-1930)


 Distinguished Maltese personalities series

Giuseppe Calì (1846-1930)

Giuseppe Calì

In 2004, the Central Bank of Malta issued a silver proof coin, the fourth commemorative coin in the Distinguished Maltese Personalities Series. This coin commemorates the painter Giuseppe Calì, who lived between 1846 and 1930. The emblem of Malta and the year of issue 2004 appear on the obverse of the coin.  The reverse shows a likeness of Giuseppe Calì, the dates of his birth and death (1846-1930) and the words Giuseppe Calì - Pittur (Giuseppe Calì - Painter).

Giuseppe Calì was born in Valletta on 14 August 1846. At the early age of seventeen, Giuseppe Calì proceeded, at Guglielmo Eynaud's expense, to study at the Accademia di Belle Arti in Naples. Here he befriended the artist Domenico Morelli, an established exponent of Naturalism, and also learnt about Romanticism. Both influences are evident in the early phase of his artistic production - particularly in his first major work, The Death of Dragut (1867), executed after his return from the Accademia, was subsequently acquired by the Government and placed on permanent display in the Palace Armoury.

Calì worked incessantly and his output was enormous. His life's artistic baggage comprised well over 600 compositions, made up of an impressive variety of paintings, drawings, bozzetti, portraits and church vault decorations as well as some sculptures and lithographs, all of which display a felicitous element of improvisation and a marvellous palette of bright colours.

Numerous churches in Malta bear witness to the versatility and mastery of Giuseppe Calì, the prolific artist and "founder of the modern school of Maltese painting". The vaults of the churches of St Francis (where there is the extraordinarily large The Apotheosis of St Francis) and St Dominic in Valletta, and of the parish churches of Bormla, Birgu and Lija, together with the altarpiece of the Rotunda in Mosta, are a few examples of his work. His altarpiece painting of St Jerome (1881) in the Church of the Sacred Heart in Sliema is generally deemed to be his masterpiece in this genre.

By the standards of contemporary church art in Malta, Calì's artistic methods, forms and style presented a sharp contrast to the accepted neo-classical norm of his day. His most notable portraits include those of Chief Justice Sir Adriano Dingli, Governor Sir Richard More O'Ferrall, University Rector Napoleone Tagliaferro, Pope Pius IX, Judge Paolo Debono, Count and Countess Messina and Lord and Lady Strickland. Giuseppe Calì died in Valletta on 1 March 1930. 



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Silver Proof





Noel Galea Bason

Royal Mint, UK