Published on 14 June 2018

From the 7th of April till the 30th of June, the Grand Master’s Palace in Valletta is hosting the Art Exhibition entitled “The Flesh and Spirit” which is a unique collection of works by two major Spanish artists of the 20th century – Pablo Picasso and Joan Miró. The exhibition consists of 100 etchings that form Picasso´s Suite Vollard, belonging to Fundación Mapfre, and 40 paintings of Miró, belonging to the Espacio Miró exhibition in Madrid. Fundación Mapfre has brought this exhibition to Malta in collaboration with the Office of the President of Malta and Fondazzjoni Patrimonju Malti (FPM).

Being the first of its kind in Malta, the Department of Spanish at GCHSS has organised a visit to the exhibition and, whilst there, took advantage of the opportunity and took a guided tour (in Spanish) around Valletta to further inform students about the role of Spain in Maltese history and, more specifically, about the Spanish influence in Valletta. The guide, a native speaker, gave an interesting and thorough explanation of different sites and monuments including: the Royal Opera house, the Parliament, Auberge de Castille, Auberge d´Aragon, Upper and Lower Barrakka Gardens, Queen Victoria´s square, St. George´s square, the Grandmaster´s palace itself, the Archbishop´s palace, Manoel Theatre, Carmelite Church, Jesuits´ Church, Pilar Church, House of Catalunya, and ended with St. John´s Co-cathedral. Whilst visiting the latter, there was an inevitable pause in front of Caravaggio´s masterpieces as well as an ascent to the balcony, which has been opened to the public this year due to Valletta being the European Capital of Culture 2018. Students discovered some new interesting details of Maltese history such as the Spanish origins of the typically closed Maltese balcony (balcón in Spanish) and the typical door-knockers (aldaba or picaporte in Spanish), the embellishments in Valletta thanks to the Spanish Grandmasters Cottoner and the prestige with which people regarded Valletta when it was ‘the cleanest city in Europe’ or ‘the Nurse of the Mediterranean’ to mention a few. Following this, the group headed to the exhibition at the Palace State Rooms where a one-hour tour (in English) of the art collections was offered.

Thanks to this cultural outing, the Spanish Department has met several learning objectives. Students have not only experienced first-hand and learnt to appreciate works of art but they have also familiarised themselves with Spanish and Maltese history and culture. They have also practised their audio-oral skills of the foreign language while they listened, asked questions and interacted with the tourist guide and the accompanying Spanish teachers. As the students themselves pointed out, their vocabulary was also enriched by learning new words such as murallas (bastions) and rompeolas (breakwater) whilst they also recalled other words such as aldaba (door-knocker) and lienzo (canvas) which they had learnt in class and now got to hear once more in the relevant contexts.