On the occasion of the nonacentenary of its foundation and the celebrations for the Jubilee, the Sovereign Military Order of Malta in Venice organised an exhibition “LUNGO IL TRAGITTO CROCIATO DELLA VITA” in the church of St. John the Baptist attached to the Grand Priory of Lombardy and Venice.
The exhibition, open from 28 May to 1 July 2000, provided a generous selection of paintings illustrating the history of the Hierosolymite Order and was promoted by the culture commission of the Grand Priory of Lombardy and Venice, presided over by the Knight of Honour and Devotion in Obedience, Marchese Doimo Frangipane; it was arranged by Prof. Francesco Amendolagine with the collaboration of the architect Matteo Sbalchiero and Sasa Dobricic. The catalogue, published by Marsilio of Venezia, was edited by Prof. Laura Corti with the collaboration of Prof. Francesco Amendolagine and Dr. Maria Doglioni. The initiative was sponsored by the Veneto Region, Assicurazioni Generali and the Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Venezia.
The Order was founded as a hospitaller institution and is still dedicated to this mission, but during its long history it also took up arms to defend Christendom. Since these two aspects have never been adequately demonstrated with a visual programme, as is customary for specifically religious orders, the only constant visual element has been used to depict its nine centuries of life. This element is portraiture, which has handed down to us paintings of the Order’s members and, implicitly, its role in history. This exhibition covers the most significant stages of the Hierosolymite portraits in Italy and also maps out a history of art patronage.
The exhibition contains portraits from the 17th to 20th centuries; these include the portrait of a knight by Caravaggio from the Palatina Gallery of Palazzo Pitti in Firenze, the portrait of a knight by Bernardo Strozzi from the Brera Art Gallery in Milan and Titian’s portrait from the Uffizi Gallery in Firenze. The decision to collect works which long ago left the walls of the Commende, Priories and residences was animated by the desire to manifest the long-standing and profound conviction of belonging to the most expressive chapters of the much more general history of art taste and collecting.