Mattia Preti - Penitent Peter, St Peter in Pontifical Robes and Madonna of Sorrows

Mattia Preti (1613-1699) left an unsurpassed contribution to the artistic scene in Malta, where he spent over half of his career. This High-Baroque painter produced works which are found all over the island and the Wignacourt Museum is no exception. The works found in this collection seem to point to his later years since the dynamism and brilliance found in his early works starts to take a more introverted nature. More emphasis is thus given to the expression of the figures being represented.

The painting representing the St Peter in Pontifical Robes dates to about 1690, as the artist leaves the imprimatura or middle ground visible. This middle ground would be used as a base on which the artist would then add the darker tones and the highlights. This is especially evident in the face of the saint which is the focal point of the work. The same can be said about the painting of the Penitent Peter. It is through this intense expression that a sense of remorse and absolution is felt. In both works the previously heavy and robust figures start to take on a more corporal weight. 

The Madonna of Sorrows is a rather atypical work by Preti. This work was painted on a wood panel, which is not usual for the artist. It is also a work of a rather small dimension, which was not commonly done by Preti. These two elements make some believe that the Madonna of Sorrows could have been produced by the artist for his own personal use. The artist could therefore easily carry it around with him, almost like some people would do with at holy picture. This work is also painted in monochrome, which was rarely seen in any of his commissioned works. One can spend hours looking at this painting, as the passionate and grief-stricken Madonna of Sorrows draws the viewer in, notwithstanding the simplicity with which this painting was produced.