Copyright © The Malta Historical Society, 2005.
Source: Melita Historica. [Malta Historical Society]. 7(1976)1(94-95)
V.F. DENARO, The Goldsmiths of Malta and their Marks, Leo S. Olschki, Florence 1972, 248 pp., 61 plates.
This is obviously a labour of love. Mr Denaro's effort in describing Malta's artistic heritage in silver (the word 'goldsmiths' in the title covers silversmiths as well) stems from a sense of patriotism. He has produced the first and only comprehensive work on Maltese silver, overcoming considerable odds such as the shyness of Maltese owners and painstaking historical research in a neglected field of study. The publication was financed by the Captain O.F. Gollcher Foundation and magnificently printed by Olschki , in the series Arte e Archeologia — Studi e Documenti.
A coffee pot by Lebrun was sold recently at Sotheby's. The art critic in Country Life wrote he first thought it was a French work, but then he found out with the help of Denaro's book that it was Maltese and that [p.95] Joseph Lebrun was Master of the Mint in Malta at the close of the 18th century. Still, his guess had been fairly good, he claimed. The history and artistic evaluation of Maltese silver, especial y during the period of the Knights, cannot be treated in isolation, since many Maltese silversmiths were in all probability imported Italian and French artisans.
The great Maltese silversmiths like Troisi and Lebrun were also Masters of the Mint. There is obviously a close relationship between Maltese silverware and Maltese coinage, which reached its peak of artistic beauty at the time of Vilhena . Denaro's book, however, does not try to explore this relationship.
The drawings in this book of maker's marks are often inadequate, perhaps due to the fact that Maltese silver is not all that accessible. Maker's marks could have been photographed, rather than drawn from memory. But then Mr Denaro worked all alone, with little encouragement or none at all from those who should have spurred him to undertake such research of national importance. We are all grateful to him for the excellent work he has bequeathed us.
John Azzopardi Vella