Samuel Bugeja 1920-2004

The Silent Artist

Samuel Bugeja - The Restorer

From the Eyes of Peter Bugeja, Samuel Bugeja's Son

The Seventies, Eighties And Nineties

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St. Helen's Basilica St. Helen's Basilica

At that young tender age, I could not but notice the different wood carvings my father started, all in different state of completeness. It’s like the mood of the artist would lead him to work on one statue but not the other. An image I can never forget is my father working on the Paola Lourdes Parish Church statue of our Blessed Virgin Mary of Lourdes. An amazing interpretation of our Blessed Virgin Mary was created and my memory of sitting next to him late in the evening until I needed to go to bed is still vivid till today. Whilst in bed I still heard the soft sound of the wood carving chisels and the artists’ wooden mallet. I am lucky that I have the initial sketch of the face of our Lady that was presented to the Paola Parish Priest. In addition, I am blessed to have the ‘buzzeto’ of the statue before the final approval was given to proceed with the wooden statue. These memories therefore are carried with me every time I see these works of art at home. I continue to try and instil the emotions related to these experiences to my children, who need to carry forward for years to come the legacy left by their Grandfather.

Moving on to the early seventies, I was lucky that my father started to take me with him and my brothers to the restoration works at the Mdina Cathedral. At that very young age I just absorbed the technique being used and observed the process of restoring the delicate alfrescos paintings. Only many years later did I realize the significance of the technique, one that my father introduced in Malta for the very first time following his extensive training and experience spent abroad, predominantly in Rome. But much more of this later.

Madonna Icon Mellieha Sanctury

Perhaps two of the most memorable periods that I clearly remember being more active in helping with restorations were the Mellieha Sanctuary and the main alter paining of ‘Tal-Karmnu’ in Valletta.

Looking back, I do not believe I truly appreciated that whilst I still had my normal social activities such as playing football, Judo and going out with friends, I was being instilled and endowed with the richness of this amazing cultural information. At the same time, I was being thought some very unique restoration and wood carving techniques by my father. Oh how I wish to turn back the clock and just spend a few hours with my father just to say how much this all means today to me.

Away from my father’s passionate work, I would say an activity that sticks to mind with fond memories is watching football games together. International football matches were my dad’s favourite games to watch. Another activity that also brought a magical comment from my father was when we used to play snooker or pool at home. My father had a funny way of holding the cue and yet he always found the pockets. One day I had to ask, ‘but daddy how do you always get it into the pocket?’ his answer was not one I fully appreciated at the time, but sublime today. He replied ‘have you forgotten that I am very good with perspective!’.