1837 - 1895Girolamo Gianni was born in Naples in 1837 and initially the artist painted Neopolitan views. His first visit to Malta, accompanied by another artist, was recorded in the passenger list of the Napoli, a ship which took him from Syracuse to Malta on 11th September, 1866. Gianni distributed leaflets advertising himself as an artist with views of Naples for sale and he stayed in Malta for six months. The artist was very successful although no paintings of Malta painted during this period have come to light. Gianni returned to Naples in 1867 but he was obviously very impressed with Malta as he returned there with all his family in 1868. He lived and worked in Valletta producing many works of the Harbour and also other views around Malta.
In 1886 the Duke of Edinburgh became Commander-in-Chief of the Mediterranean Fleet in Malta. He hoisted his flag on H.M.S. Alexandra and Prince George, later George V, joined as a watch-keeping officer. Gianni was commissioned by the Duke to paint the ships of the Fleet and the painting we illustrate here is a typical example. Gianni made many drawings of the Fleet which served him as models, and his studio was a focal point for many important people who visited Valletta. For two decades the artist maintained a prolific flow of landscapes and marine paintings. Most of these works were purchased by the officer class of the British garrison in Malta as well as their Naval counterparts.
Following the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 the British Naval presence in the Mediterranean, with Malta as the centre, went from strength to strength.There was a huge demand for momentos of Malta and Valletta Harbour and Gianni fulfilled this requirement. He set himself up as a capo scuola and artists of the period were proud to have been his pupils.
The artist returned to Naples for the latter part of his life although he continued to paint Malta. When news of his death in 1895 reached the island, a local paper announced it and called him the 'great painter of Maltese scenery'. They also remarked that his paintings of various parts of Malta had made his name celebrated in many parts of the world.