Object Record

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Catalog Number 01.C.48c
Object Name Figurine
Title Maltese Figure of a Monk
Artist Unknown
Place of Origin Malta
Date before 1838
Description This small statuette of a monk is molded of off-white clay. The figure wears sandals and a hooded habit, tied at the waist by a white cord with three knots; these three knots recall the three vows which serve as the foundation for a Franciscan life. The figure’s haircut and beard further identify him as a follower of Saint Francis. It would be appropriate for a statuette representing a Franciscan monk (or friar) to be found on Malta. Two major sects of the tradition have called the island home since the fourteenth century: the Conventual Franciscans are thought to have arrived in Malta by 1355, and the Franciscan Capuchins came to Malta in 1588/89. The upper portion of the figure’s body and the base of the statuette are soiled with dust, and the right hand of the figure is missing. There is a small chip in the upper edge of the figure’s hood. Tool marks are visible in the clay body, especially beneath the hem of the habit and on the underside of the base. 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-3.25 D-2.5 inches
Credit line American Philosophical Society. Gift of William Winthrop Andrews, 2 November 1838.
Search Terms 19th century
nineteenth century