Artiklu dwar iż-żjara lill-Manifattura De Wit f’Mechelen deher fi SkyLife, l-inflight magazine tal-AirMalta. L-artiklu, miktub minn Franklin Mamo, jispjega wkoll il-valur tas-sett ta’ tapezzeriji ta’ San Ġwann:
Amongst Malta’s many cultural treasures is a set of 17th century Flemish Tapestries, commissioned by Grandmaster Ramon Perellos y Roccaful in 1697 and donated to the St John’s Co-Cathedral as the traditional gift a new Grandmaster would donate to the church on his election.
The Maltese set is unique for a number of reasons. First, tapestries were usually produced in sets of four, eight or twelve. The Maltese set is made up of no less than 29 tapestries: 14 depicting episodes from the life of Christ and ecclesiastical allegories, 14 showing Christ, the Virgin Mary and the Apostles and the last tapestry showing Grandmaster Perellos.
Secondly, if even one tapestry is lost, the set becomes incomplete, the sad fate of many sets. The loss is even bigger when the first or the last tapestry in a set is lost as these are usually the ones bearing the manufacturer’s “signature”. The Maltese set is still complete.
Finally, the “cartoons” for the Maltese tapestries, the original design on paper serving as a basis for weaving, were made by the famous Antwerp artist Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640) and weaved in the De Vos studio in Brussels, one of the best-known of the time.
Members and friends of the Maltese expat association Maltin fil-Belġju were recently shown around the Royal Manifacture De Wit in Mechelen, Belgium, where Maltese tapestries are undergoing conservation. The guided tour included not only the opportunity to see tapestries from the 15th century right up to our times but also to see two Maltese tapestries currently on the looms.
The most innovative part of the process at De Wit is the cleaning of the tapestries. Traditionally, tapestries were washed by putting them open in water in a large, shallow bath and then they would be walked upon barefoot. At De Wit, following a careful and specialist “vacuuming” to remove dust and particles, water at a fixed, regulated temperature is sprayed on the open tapestry lying flat and is then drained through perforations in the metal floor under the tapestry.
An intriguing piece of engineering developed by De Wit, the washing and drying machine washes a tapestry for two to two and a half hours, rinses it for another two and then air-dries it for an hour and a half. Only then can careful and expert conservation of the old, fine threads begin.
It is a long process. The Maltese tapestries are sent to De Wit two at a time (their transport is a challenge of its own) and it is estimated that restoring the entire set will take until 2017, ten years of work in all. But when one considers that these irreplacable and perishable works of art have made it, practically intact, through four centuries, it is time and effort well invested.
Maltin fil-Belġju asbl is the association of Maltese expatriates in Belgium (http://www.maltin.be).
Tours of the Royal Manifacture de Wit in Mechelen (Shoutetstraat 7) take place every Saturday at 10.30 a.m. (http://www.dewit.be).
The Perellos tapestry set – as well as other ecclesiastical treasures – can be seen at the Museum of St John’s Co-Cathedral, Mondays to Fridays from 9.30 a.m. to 4.30 a.m. (last admission 4 p.m.) and Saturdays 9.30 a.m. to 12.30 p.m. (last admission at 12 p.m.). Closed on Sundays and public holidays (http://www.stjohnscocathedral.com).
L-artiklu kien akkumpanjat minn ritratti meħudha waqt iż-żjara.