Antoine Favray - St Cathaldus and St John the Baptist with St Paul
The paintings of St Cathaldus and St John the Baptist and St Paul are two noteworthy works by the French artist Antoine Favray (1706-1798). This artist was active in Rome, Malta and Constantinople and played a decisive role in Maltese painting, as he filled the void which was left after the death of Mattia Preti almost fifty years before. Favray arrived in Malta in 1744 and even though he was not of noble blood, managed to attain his passaggio into the Order of St John as a Serving Brother in 1871. This also made him the official painter of the Order.
It is for this reason that we find the representation of St John the Baptist and St Paul in the Wignacourt collection. Representations of these two saints together is not common in art, however these were the two most important saints of the Order. St John was the patron saint of the Order and St Paul was also central due to the history of the grotto, which was also under the Knight’s care. In this work it possible to observe Favray’s influence from Mattia Preti, especially where composition is concerned. However, the use of chromatic reds and greens are typical of Favray and indicated that it was probably painted at a later stage of Favray’s first Maltese Period.
The painting of St Cataldus was originally produced for the little baroque church dedicated to this saint which is found a mere 50 metres away from the grotto of St Paul. This painting was signed and dated 1760 by the artist. This work is a very fine work by the artist as the exquisitely gold-embroidered vestments and white vestment seems to almost project out of the canvas. This is the result of placing the saint against a rather dark background, thus producing a sharp contrast between the almost impenetrable darkness in the background and the illuminated saint in the foreground.