Palazzo Falson - Historic House Museum
This handsomely produced, beautifully illustrated and lucidly written guide to Palazzo Falson is an essential companion for the visitor to the palazzo and a very useful basic reference work for those planning a visit or desiring to revive their memories of a visit.
A brief history of the palazzo since its origins in 13th century Mdina is followed by that of the Gollcher family since the 19th century with much more information about Captain Olof Frederick Gollcher, OBE, who became full owner of Palazzo Falson by 1938 and housed in it his many collections of art works, armour, silver, books, carpets, furniture and several others.
Each of the palazzo’s several areas is described succinctly but always clearly, the highlights of each room or area being emphasized not just in the text (by Michelle Galea and Francesca Balzan) but also in the illustrations.
The well-angled photographs of richly furnished and decorated rooms such as the study, the drawing room, the sitting room and the dining room illustrate the environment in which a wealthy family live in the first half of the twentieth century, surrounded by the treasures a perceptive and assiduous collector like Captain Gollcher amassed in his lifetime. As an increasing number of experts focus their attention on the exhibits at Palazzo Falson, the artistic and historical importance of a growing number of exhibits is being revealed. It is thus likely that in the years to come, it is not just the general cultured visitor who will be drawn to the palazzo but also specialists in a number of fields.
Palazzo Falson 360° - A Historic House Museum
First volume in the prestigious 360° series to be dedicated to a particular museum, this work brings out the lavish beauty of Palazzo Falson after the long and painstaking restoration work carried out under the supervision of Fondazzjoni Patrimonju Malti’s Chairman Maurice de Giorgio, and of CEO Michael Lowell, who was also responible for the design and layout of the museum. A close study of the text and of Enrico Formica’s superb photographs of rooms and other areas in the palazzo and of a good range of exhibits, including what are considered to be the most notable ones, is easily and undoubtedly the next best thing to an actual visit, and a record of the museum that cannot easily be paralleled.
Apart from the 88 pages of plates (which include a number of folding plates) the volume has two sequences of text. One of them consists of a commentary by Michelle Galea on all the features and exhibits illustrated in the book, a text notable for its combined lucidity and conciseness, drawing attention not just to the exhibits or architectural features themselves but also to their art-historical significance.
Maurice de Giorgio’s introduction and its essential bibliography then provides the reader with a short history of the palazzo and indicates that more research is being carried out into the details of what happened over the centuries since it was initially built in the 13th century. Just as interesting is what he has to say on Captain Olof Gollcher (1889-1962) who not only became Palazzo Falson’s owner in the 20th century but with much wisdom, acumen and taste laid the foundations of what is now the palazzo’s future, that of a historic house museum. He writes, “[Gollcher’s] ghost lives on in the rooms he recreated with his various possessions saved, preserved and undispersed.” The author reminds us of the sagacity with which Fondazzjoni Patrimonju Malti approached the Gollcher Foundation and concluded a far-reaching management agreement with it. He also reminds us that Palazzo Falson was meant by Gollcher to become the property of the Venerable Order o St John of Jerusalem, based in London, a bequest the Venerable Order providentially refused.
Perhaps the most valuable part of this Introduction is the fairly detailed account de Giorgio gives of the far-ranging restoration work carried out on the building, a task with which he himself was so intimately associated or a number of years. In addition, the equally difficult and laborious restoration of 3500 items of which Gollcher’s forty-five collections were composed was also carried out. These included a very rare decimal time Robin watch, valuable items of armour and weaponry, and an impressive range of paintings from marine paintings to fine portraits of members of the Gollcher family and others, and works by Mattia Preti and Nicholas Poussin, as well as etchings by Jacques Callot.
Xlendi and its Ancient Shipwrecks
On Saturday 29th November, 2014 the book Xlendi and its Ancient Shipwrecks was launched at the Ministry for Gozo. This book, Palazzo Falson Historic House Museum’s first, is published in association with Fondazzjoni Patrimonju Malti. At the launch, Prof. John Woods CBE, DSc, the distinguished author of the book described its contents as:
‘The ancient shipwrecks at Xlendi occurred sporadically over two millennia, from the Bronze Age to the Middle Ages which resulted in a concentration of ancient artefacts far richer than other findings in Maltese waters. The book explains this by relating maritime activity in the central Mediterranean to the harbour’s socio-economic history. It provides an illustrated eye-witness account, with original colour underwater photographs which were taken during the 1961 exploration and mapping of the wreck site, highlighting the recovery of artefacts that are now in the Gozo Museum of Archaeology. ‘
He also paid tribute to Olof Frederick Gollcher, who owned and lived in Palazzo Falson for many years of his life, explaining how Gollcher was instrumental in enabling and guiding, together with the then Malta National Museum, this pioneering underwater exploration.
The 1961 survey was led by John Woods, at the time a physics undergraduate and President of the Underwater Club at Imperial College London. He spent the next ten summers combining science and diving for the Royal Navy in Malta. His career alternated between being a Professor of Oceanography (Southampton, Kiel & London) and a senior civil servant (UK Director of Marine & Atmospheric Sciences). He was awarded the Founder's gold medal of the Royal Geographical Society. In 2007 he shared in the Nobel Peace Prize for Climate.
The launch which was addressed by a panel made up of Minister for Gozo Anton Refalo, the author Prof. John Woods and Fondazzjoni Patrimonju Malti Deputy Chairman and Editor Judge Giovanni Bonello, was followed by a drinks reception at the Ministry for Gozo.