The paintings of the Order of St John in Malta : Hospitaller art collections and patronage from the late fifiteenth century to the eighteenth century

  • Theresa M Vella

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)


The purpose of the doctoral thesis is to demonstrate the role of the Hospitaller knights of the Order of St John as art patrons and collectors, and the extent to which works of art enabled internal relations between the Grand Masters of the Order and Hospitaller knights, and the extent to which art also enabled external relations with other entities and states through the language of gifts, bequests and cultural identity. The study will enable an understanding of the development of the Order's art patronage and the growth of Hospitaller art collections, from the late sixteenth century to the early eighteenth century. These dates encompass the first commissions given to artists to embellish the magistral palace and the Conventual church in the 1570s, and the growth of a magistral art collection under successive Grand Masters. The research will also aim to situate Hospitaller art patronage and collecting within the broader history of art collecting in Europe, by highlighting factors that were specific to the institutional character of the Order of St John and the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience taken by Hospitaller knights. The thesis will be informed by archival research on Hospitaller inventories. It will also build on studies that have been conducted on the Order's art patronage, and on the history of individual artists in Malta such as Caravaggio and Mattia Preti, as well as on research on the broader history of art collecting.
Date of Award2012
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorFernando Cervantes (Supervisor) & Beth Williamson (Supervisor)

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