Samuel Bugeja 1920-2004

The Silent Artist

The Maltese Restorer, Sculptor and Painter - By Chev. Vincenzo Maria Pellegrini

A Biography Liberally Translated By Joe Bugeja, Samuel Bugeja´s Elder Son, From The Original Italian Text Of Chev. Vincenzo Pellegrini.

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Samuel Bugeja Samuel Bugeja

Another restoration work undertaken by Samuel Bugeja at the Mdina Cathedral was the central nave vault painted in the fresco technique by the Sicilian Manno. The most difficult restoration activity consisted in the detachment - whereby the restorer had to separate from the thick plaster the painting colour film that was originally applied onto the fresh plaster itself in order to transfer it onto a taut canvas for subsequent positioning and re-attachment onto new plaster (applied to the cleaned underlying bare stone vault). It is to be stated here that this technique is the only option available to safeguard and recover severely damaged fresco. It is one of the most difficult techniques to execute in the Art of Restoration. On completion of the Mdina works, the congratulatory appreciation of Prof. Cesare Brandi was the greatest honour that could be bestowed to the young artist Samuel Bugeja since Prof. Brandi commands the highest possible respect internationally in this field. These encouragements served Samuel well and led him to accept further similar restoration commissions.

Following this success Samuel was commissioned to restore the Decorations of the old Manoel Theatre in Valletta. On the recommendation of Prof. Brandi, the Education Department gave Samuel Bugeja special leave to attend to the Manoel Theatre works in the national interest. The restoration was well executed enabling the Manoel Theatre to regain its original beauty.

Whilst Samuel Bugeja was occupied with these restoration milestones, he never side-lined his love for sculpture, being his major source of inspiration throughout his artistic life. He maintained his sculpture and created works that would later appear exhibited in numerous fora. In fact, Samuel won a competition for the design of the pedestal and niche stand for the titular statue of Our Lady at the Gozo Cathedral in the Cittadella of Victoria Rabat. The pedestal was casted in silver and the niche stand in bronze – all full size models in clay were executed by Samuel himself. The work is of outstanding artistic value.

Soon after that period, the association ´Friends of Malta´ organized an exhibition in London for the Maltese artists. On the occasion of its inauguration in London, the same President of the Friends of Malta, Sir Basil Lindsay Fynn, purchased the 150 centimeters high statue carved in wood ´Mother and Child´ for a relevant sum. It was a further major artistic encouragement for the young sculptor.