New Altarpiece for the Dominican Church of Vittoriosa, Malta: "The Glory of St. Dominic" by Manuel Farrugia

Detail of the Altarpiece

We are pleased to present a painting representing "The Glory of St. Dominic" that was recently installed within the Dominican church of the Annunciation in Vittoriosa, Malta. The artist is a Maltesian named Manuel Farrugia and the painting itself depicts St. Dominic as well as St. Catherine of Alexandria and St. Mary Magdelen, along with Pope Honorius III (who gave papal approval for the then newly founded Dominican Order) and Pope Gregory IX (who canonized St. Dominic). 

The following provides a more detailed description of the work:
The altarpiece depicting The Glory of Saint Dominic by Gozitan artist Manuel Farrugia was commissioned by the Dominicans of Vittoriosa, Malta, for the altar of St. Dominic in the Church of the Annunciation to commemorate the 8th centenary from the death of St. Dominic.

The painting is thematically rich and incorporates various elements that relate it to the history of this ancient Dominican foundation, and the jubilee being commemorated by the Order this year. In the centre, shrouded in rays of bright white rays, is the radiant figure of St. Dominic gloriously being carried into heaven. The angelic face of St. Dominic is modelled on the vero volto, a scientific 3d reconstruction of St. Dominic’s countenance, kept in the Basilica of San Domenico in Bologna.

On his right-hand side, St. Catherine of Alexandria stands elegantly watching the founder of the Order of Preachers, and kneeling right below her, St. Mary Magdalene gracefully holds an alabaster vase of perfume. These two figures, apart from also being patrons of the Dominican Order, evoke the apparition of Our Lady, along with Catherine of Alexandria and Mary Magdalene, to a Dominican brother in Soriano, wherein they showed him the famous image of St. Dominic, known thereafter as ‘of Soriano.’ This motif harkens to the ancient altar piece that used to hang above the altar of Saint Dominic in the Church that was sadly lost in 1941, during the German blitz of the Second World War II.

On the left-hand side Popes Honorius III and Gregory IX stand looking upwards to St. Dominic, vested in Medieval pontifical vestments. Pope Honorius III holds in his hand the bull entitled Religiosam Vitam, by which he approved the Order of Preachers in 1216, while Gregory IX displays the bull of the opening of the cause for canonisation, where according to Dominic’s hagiographer Bl. Jordan of Saxony, Gregory wrote, ‘It is without doubt that he was brought into the glory of the Apostles.’ This motif recalls the 800th anniversary from the foundation of the Order celebrated in 2016, and that of his death being commemorated this year.

Finally at the bottom right, one finds various symbols relating to St. Dominic. A beautiful angel holds open a book with the Gospel according to Matthew, which, we are told, Dominic carried with him everywhere. A white lily lies gracefully on top of the book, a sign of Dominic’s purity. Finally, a dog with a lit torch in its mouth, laying its front legs on the world is reminiscent of the dream that St. Dominic’s mother had during her child-bearing months in which she saw herself being delivered of a dog with a lit torch in its mouth, setting the world on fire, a prognostication of Dominic’s eventual missionary zeal.
The work, which is oil on canvas and measuring 300cm x 500cm, forms the altarpiece for the altar of St. Dominic as noted above. A Pontifical Mass was offered for the occasion of the unveiling by Archbishop Charles Scicluna on May 18, 2021.

The painting in the process of being installed. This will give readers a sense of the scale.

The new altarpiece prior to being unveiled (Source)

The installed altarpiece:

For more information on Manuel Farrugia's work, please visit his website or his social media page. 

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