Object Record

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Catalog Number 01.C.48b
Object Name Figurine
Title Maltese Figure of a Priest
Artist Unknown
Place of Origin Malta
Date before 1838
Description This small statuette of a male clergy member is molded of off-white clay. The figure wears a range of Roman Catholic vestments including a tricorn hat (perhaps a biretta) and a 21-button cassock; the man holds a book between his left elbow and his body. The upper portion of the figure’s body is soiled with dust, and the feet of the man and base of the statuette are missing. There is a small chip in the rear upper surface of the tricorn hat. There is evidence of a repair where the neck of the figure meets the body. Tool marks are visible in the clay body, especially beneath the hem of the cassock. No maker’s marks or other identifying inscriptions are visible.
Label APS member William Winthrop Andrews donated this statuette to the APS in November of 1838. Winthrop served as the U.S. consul to Malta, a pair of Mediterranean islands that were then part of the British Empire, from 1834 until his death in 1869. While in Malta, he was named a knight commander of the Order of the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem. According to APS records, this statuette (along with three similar figurines) was "Cut from Malta stone, taken from ‘St. Paul’s Cave,’ at Citta Vecchia." This could refer to "Saint Paul’s Grotto," a cave beneath Saint Paul’s Cathedral in Citta Vecchia (now called Mdina), the old Maltese capital. A more likely possibility for its origin is the "Catacombs of St. Paul," a labyrinthine system of subterranean tombs, dating from the third century C.E., where Saint Paul is said to have preached. These catacombs, which house some of Malta’s earliest archaeological remains, were popular destinations for researchers and tourists in the 19th century. This sculpture may have been created for the tourist trade. It resembles the ancient terracotta "Tanagra" tomb figurines, depicting people in everyday dress, that were unearthed in central Greece in the second half of the century.
Material Stone
Dimensions H-7.5 W-3 D-1.5 inches
Credit line American Philosophical Society. Gift of William Winthrop Andrews, 2 November 1838.
Search Terms 19th century
nineteenth century