june 2019
title: Court painter
Meetings on Malta
Text: Louel de Jong
Photos: Eddy Wenting.

Dutch artist Peter Korver received an unexpected request, to provide Malta's monumental 17th century Presidential Palace with a series of grand scale botanical and zoological paintings.

Left; The Rotunda, this high, light octagonal hall is a cross connection between four long palace wings. Everyone meets here, from staff to guests, the president and a painter in work apron.
Right top; San Anton Palace was built in the early 17th century. Today this is the official residence of the President of Malta. The gardens, with orange groves and botanical plants, are open to the public.
Right center; Though depicted together in this panel, the long flower torches of Sea squill can only be seen in the intense heat of August, its leaves however only during winter and spring.
Right bottom; Peter Korver in front of his Caper flower panel. Six of these three and a half meter panels were done in his Amsterdam studio and from there transported to Malta .
Left; The Rotunda, this high, light octagonal hall is a cross connection between four long palace wings. Everyone meets here, from staff to guests, the president and a painter in work apron. Right top; San Anton Palace was built in the early 17th century. Today this is the official residence of the President of Malta. The gardens, with orange groves and botanical plants, are open to the public. Right center; Though depicted together in this panel, the long flower torches of Sea squill can only be seen in the intense heat of August, its leaves however only during winter and spring. Right bottom; Peter Korver in front of his Caper flower panel. Six of these three and a half meter panels were done in his Amsterdam studio and from there transported to Malta .

Of course Korver said yes. “For research, meetings with architects and later during installation of the panels, I had to spend several longer periods in Malta. When the President invited my assistant and me to stay at the palace, we were surprised. It became a unique experience. The first day I felt a bit “lost in translation”, as the palace seemed almost deserted, but the next day the protocol was running at full speed, with butlers and a generously laid breakfast table. Suddenly it felt a bit like being one of those classical court painters. I was invited to this project by Lisa Carson of the Italian / Maltese design firm Daaahaus, the architects in charge of the palaces renovation. The official assignment was to depict the history of the place in zoological and botanical paintings, to revive the eighteenth-century atmosphere on six large panels and a ceiling painting in the Grand Salon, a room for medium-sized dinner receptions.

Left top; Four moths are depicted on the ceiling, framed by painted cartouches of antique Maltese lace. Together these four insects mimic a Maltese cross, symbol of Malta.
Left below; This miniscule Iris hardly stands out in nature. Whether large or very small, Korver painted all of his plants and flowers on the same scale. As background colour he made paint from Maltese limestone.


Right; The ‘Caperflowers’ panel as seen through the doors of the Grand Salon where Korvers work found its permanent destination. The ceilings in this seventeenth-century palace are upto six meters high, the works large, so soft earth tones have been used to prevent the paintings from being too overwhelming.
Left top; Four moths are depicted on the ceiling, framed by painted cartouches of antique Maltese lace. Together these four insects mimic a Maltese cross, symbol of Malta. Left below; This miniscule Iris hardly stands out in nature. Whether large or very small, Korver painted all of his plants and flowers on the same scale. As background colour he made paint from Maltese limestone. Right; The ‘Caperflowers’ panel as seen through the doors of the Grand Salon where Korvers work found its permanent destination. The ceilings in this seventeenth-century palace are upto six meters high, the works large, so soft earth tones have been used to prevent the paintings from being too overwhelming.

CYCLING
For inspiration and research I got on the bike to explore the country. I also spoke with local botanists and biologists. I used the plants and animals that I encountered - chance encounters, not exclusive species. The magically beautiful caper flower, for example, which only lasts one day and whose buds ( and fruits ) we eat. It grows along walls and rocksy surfaces. I also used Maltese sandstone for the background, ground and made into paint. Because of the high ceilings I chose earth tones, as strongly pronounced colors would have been to overwhelming. Large, simple shapes with here and there small worked-out details. You can see stamens, insects and other small animals. Set like jewels in a grand shape.

NATURE
I don’t know any better than nature is my language. As a toddler, sitting at the front of my mother's bicycle, I already noticed and pointed out everything, at least so I'm told. In my paintings my love for and academic background in biology and history coincides, both in visual and narrative form. I always first delve into the story of the building for which I paint. In the Netherlands too, I mainly work in historic buildings for private or corporate owners. For a current assignment in a late 17th c. Amsterdam canal house, I work with the imagery of some recently discovered ceiling paintings from the days of the Dutch East India Company, for example, depicting exotic and native bird species. In Malta it were the local flowers and animals, such as the Maltese falcon which has an almost legendary status as once the rulers of this country owed a local peregrine falcon as an annual lease to the Habsburg Emperors. Later the country came under British rule, another important era in Maltese history. Only recently Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles were staying as guests at the palace. Isn't it wonderful that those ordinary local plants and animals now shine from these walls like monumental state-portraits ?”

Left; Occasionally the gardens peacocks fly on to the veranda and belvedere, sometimes even making an inquisitive step into the palace. 
- Right top; The cactus is not originally a Maltese species, yet just like the agave, it has grown into an extremely common sight since it was imported from Mexico centuries ago. Korver thought it to be both fun and symbolically appropriate to paint these two \"migrants\" on either side of the Salons monumental fireplace. - Right below; The antique chandelier is made of Italian Murano glass. The four painted Hawk moths around it seem to be drawn to the light.
Left; Occasionally the gardens peacocks fly on to the veranda and belvedere, sometimes even making an inquisitive step into the palace. - Right top; The cactus is not originally a Maltese species, yet just like the agave, it has grown into an extremely common sight since it was imported from Mexico centuries ago. Korver thought it to be both fun and symbolically appropriate to paint these two "migrants" on either side of the Salons monumental fireplace. - Right below; The antique chandelier is made of Italian Murano glass. The four painted Hawk moths around it seem to be drawn to the light.