Michele Busuttil (painter)

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Michele Busuttil

Michele Busuttil (14 June 1762- 31 October 1831) was a painter born in Żejtun, son of Clemente and Rosa Magro. He was baptised at the Żejtun Parish Church on 15 June 1762.

The artistic gene in young Michele was soon noticed and as a result he was given painting lessons by Rocco Buhagiar (c.1725-1805) in Valletta where his father had taken up residence in a house overlooking the Grand Harbour between the Slaves’ Prison and the Sacra Infermeria, the Hospital of the Knights of St. John. At the age of eighteen, in 1780, he was sent to Rome with another Maltese student, Giuseppe Grech (1755-1787), to study design, painting and sculpture at the Accademia di San Luca, one of the most prestigious academies of art in Europe. Here Michele was placed under the tutelage of sculptor Tommaso Rigi. In drawing competitions in both September 1782 and September 1783 he came second in class and Giuseppe Grech came first. On 2 July 1785 Michele, then aged 23, accompanied by his elder brother Giuseppe, four years his senior, left Rome for Naples. Possibly he was on his way back to Malta where he opened his own private art school next to his father’s residence in Strada Irlandese, somewhere opposite the Lower Barracca. Among his students were Massimo Gauci and Giorgio Pullicino, Michele’s future assistant at the University.

Following his marriage to the Gozitan Maria Antonia Buhagiar, he established firm roots in Gozo. He was financially well off and owned good property in Gozo, where he lived for a long time.

Although Michele was influenced greatly by the Neapolitan Neo-Classic, he remained essentially Baroque. He painted several major works in Gozitan churches including his most important work in Gozo, the titular painting of the Assumption of the Virgin (1791) at the Gozo Cathedral. His marriage to Maria Antonia from Victoria, Gozo was celebrated in front of this painting on 19 October 1794. He had five children.

In 1800 he was elected professor for the Arts in the Faculty of Architecture in the Malta University. At that time Francesco Saverio Caruana was the Rector.

Many of his works include titular paintings such as that of Our Lady of Loreto in Għajnsielem amd Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Kerċem. Paintings in other parishes including the painting of the altars of St. Paul and St. Michael in Żejtun parish church.

His children Salvatore, Luigi, Vincenza and Clemente are also well-known artists.

He died on 31 October 1831 in his last residence, No 1 Saint Michael Street, Valletta and was buried in the Church of St. Paul’s Shipwreck, Valletta, in the family grave.