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 Restoring the Aula Capitolari at the Mdina Cathedral Mdina Polyptych

In 1967 Samuel Bugeja was commissioned to restore the Polyptych which stood in the Sacristy of the Mdina Cathedral – now it is admirably viewed in the Cathedral museum. The Polyptych, representing the glory of Saint Paul, consists in a central principal table surrounded by 10 smaller tables. Since the Polyptych had been restored several times in the past, the restoration had to overcome many challenges. The works took 2 years and 6 months to complete and it required the removal of the residues of the previous restorations. There were no less than 4 layers of distinct restoration works including one particular restoration that was plastered over obliterating the original gold back-ground. The work of Samuel Bugeja necessitated patience and perseverance but in the end it was justified because the Polyptych acquired its original splendor.

In June 1967 Samuel Bugeja held a one-man exhibition at the Cathedral Museum at Mdina consisting of 6 wooden sculptural works and 2 works in plaster. Amongst the works one could find ´Maternity´ and ´Ballerina´ - an elegant work of art displaying the performing ballerina.

´Maternity´ shows a female that has already been through the extraordinary experience of maternal delivery – she embraces her child who in turn caresses her cheeks leading to an evolving assembly of dynamic movement that gives momentum and life to the group yielding a splendid reality brimming in poetry. This work has been acquired by the Maltese Government and is exhibited at the Museum of Fine Arts in Valletta.


The ´Ballerina´ encapsulates all the feminine beauty and sensuality. The pose and compositional equilibrium are natural and perfect; the entire anatomy of the figure vibrates whilst the facial expression is triumphant; the closed eyes contain the artistic spirit of the soul within it leaving the spectator in awe whilst relishing its physical beauty. One can comfortably state that these works of art are poetry sculpted in wood.

Bernardette - Madonna of Lourdes

Another exhibition by Samuel Bugeja was held at the National Museum in 1972. It had 39 works of the artist Samuel Bugeja, of which 11 were oil on canvass, evidence of the versatility of the artist. For a sculptor to switch so easily from the chisel to the painting brush is no mean feat. In order to discover this latent talent, one has to go through traceability regarding Samuel Bugeja´s experiences.

In fact, after his studies at the Istituto del Restauro in Rome, Samuel Bugeja enjoyed several important restoration commissions, which restoration work brought the artist into intimate contact with colours, which stimulated him to express himself with the brush as well, creating works of art equally vibrant in serenity as they are in poetry.

Among the exhibits, besides ´Maternity´ and ´Ballerina´, other wooden sculptures of considerable note and a modern ´Eve´- an oil on canvas symbolizing Biblical femininity embodied in our modern sophisticated modern era. ´Eve´ is full of vitality and dynamics and in its facial expression there is concentrated a physical force that impresses; the back-ground has painted a cloudy sky – the matrix gives the impression of an ephemeral dream.