Melchiorre Cafà’s – Statue of St Paul

The statue of St Paul was produced by the renowned Maltese sculptor, Melchiorre Cafà (1636-1667), who during his brief career became the most important Baroque sculptor in Rome in the generation subsequent to Gianlorenzo Bernini. Lorenzo Cafà’s short stay in Malta in 1666 left an impact on our island. It was probably around this time that this statue of St Paul was commissioned by Grand Master Cotoner. This statue was needed to replace a wooden statue which was brought over to Malta by the Spanish hermit Juan Benegas de Cordova. There are also indications that Cafà was commissioned other works for the grotto, which were never executed. These commissions would have probably been a roundel for the altar just below the statue of St Paul as well as a statue of St Luke for the adjacent chapel. The statue of St Luke was later produced by Pietro Papaleo, which is now found at the National Museum of Fine Arts in Valletta.  

As a result of the artist’s tragic death in Rome 1667, even the statue of St Paul was never completed by Cafà. It was Ercole Ferrata who finished executing the statue of St Paul. Ferrata was an Italian sculptor who had a flourishing workshop in Rome, in which Cafà had trained in the early years of his career.  

Even though the finishing of the statue was entirely completed by the bottega of Ferratta, Cafà’s intervention can still be seen in this statue. The obvious sense of movement created by the asymmetrical pose as well as the ‘rising’ flow of drapery folds is typically Cafà’s. The gathering of drapery on the hip of the Saint is also very distinctive of Cafà. St Paul is represented with a raised arm, which captures him in the act of preaching. This gives the statue a dynamic feel and also draws the viewer in. This is also complimented by the tall proportions of the body of St Paul, which is also very typical of Cafà.