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Title Grand Harbour and Three Cities from the Quayside of Valletta
Collection Museum of the Order of St John, St John Ambulance, London
Artist Gianni, Girolamo (Italian artist, 1837-1895) 
Date 1869 (dated)
Signed yes
Description The painting depicts a view of the Grand Harbour and Three Cities from the quayside of Valletta. Various small craft can be seen moving to and fro across the harbour; in the centre of the painting is a white rowing boat flying the white ensign of the British Navy (a white flag with a red cross and Union Jack in the top left corner). This was without doubt included to appeal to the British servicemen and visitors who were a major part of Gianni's clientele. To the left can be seen a large vessel, which appears to have funnels and so may be a steam-ship. It does not have paddles, so it may be a screw driven craft, which would have been an extremely novel sight in 1869. Gianni first came to Malta in 1866, on a short excursion to assess the market for his painting there. He obviously felt there was good money to be made, as he stayed, and, over the next twenty years, built up a successful business, eventually passed onto his two daughters. His success was founded on his ability to represent a nostalgic, romantic ideal of Malta that appealed to foreign visitors, particularly the British; a highly lucrative market, since Malta was governed by the British. It was not all tourist pictures though, he had some prominent patrons, including the Duke of Edinburgh and the Prince of Wales. Some confusion surrounds Gianni's first name; he signed himself 'G Gianni' and is often confused with the artist signing himself 'Gian Gianni', though they are distinct. The Getty Union List of Artist's Names recognises only Giancinto Gianni, but most Maltese authorities (including the National Museum of Fine Arts in Malta), now refer to him as Girolamo Gianni.
Current Accession Number LDOSJ:8702
Inscription front lr 'G Gianni 1869'
Subject landscape (Grand Harbour, Three Cities)
Measurements 36 x 102 cm (estimate)
Material oil on canvas
Acquisition Details Unknown (possibly bequeathed by Mrs Blanch Lintorn Orman, 1941, see notes).
Notes It appears that these pictures may not be part of the Orman bequest, although they have joined it 'by default'; the original bequest, as listed in the acquisition log, comprised '9 pictures of Malta, framed. Bequest of Mrs B Lintorn Orman, 19/09/1941'. As wartime concerns took precedence, it seems that all new paintings coming into the Order (the rest of the collection had been removed to outside London at the start of hostilities), were stored in the attic and promptly forgotten. These paintings were rediscovered in 1969; 'I am happy to report the restoration of eight very fine oil paintings by Gianni, a nineteenth century artist whose is highly valued in Malta nowadays. These pictures were discovered in the attic at St John's Gate several months ago, and cleaning has revealed magnificent views, some by moonlight, of the Grand Harbour, Verdala Palace and the Palace of St Anton. Painted in the 1880's they are signed and dated by the artist.' Annual Report 1969, p. 34. The rather slim documentation for the bequest consists of one receipt, which mentions; 'Two pictures, Verdala Castle. . .5 pictures, Views of Malta 1888...Received the above...' and a letter which may be from Blanch Lintorn Orman, or a relative, which mentions; 'Moonlight pictures of Verdala Castle and Interior of the same...1887...by Gianni ...[?] pictures, views of Malta by Gianni'. Interestingly, the number of pictures has been crossed-out, and could be five, or eight. So there are some obvious discrepancies in the number of pictures; seven, going by the receipt; nine, going by the acquisition log; eight 'rediscovered', and currently up to ten Giannis included in the bequest. However, there are some consistent facts to help identify paintings from the bequest; moonlight scenes; paintings dated 1887 or 1888; and at least one painting (LDOSJ:1856A) is inscribed 'Lady Simmons' on the back. There are four Giannis dated 1869 (this painting, LDOSJ:1763, LDOSJ:8701 and LDOSJ:8702), two of which are listed in a survey of paintings in St John's Gate, (date uncertain, but after 1969, as it includes the Giannis discovered and restored in that year, and before 1972), and in those notes at least, they are not listed as part of the Orman Bequest. Where else they might come from is a mystery; there are several unaccounted-for 'Views of Malta' in the acquisition log; two given by Sir M Chalmers in 1926, and four given by 'Jones' in 1936; but obviously the description of the paintings given is so general, that it is impossible to prove either way. The ambiguities are such that it is possible to be sure only that moonlit views and paintings from 1888 and 1887 are definitely Orman bequest, paintings dated to the 1880s are probably Orman bequest, based on biographical details (Sir John Arabin Lintorn Simmons was Governor of Malta 1884-1888), and at least one or more of the paintings dated 1869 (since by excluding them all we are left with only six paintings, less that the lowest number recorded for the bequest), may possibly be part of the bequest, though not conclusively.
Rights Owner Museum of the Order of St John
Author Malcolm Barclay
 

 

 

 

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