This Valletta man made a HUGE name for himself as a master lithographer in the 1800s
This Tuesday would have been Massimo Gauci’s 246th birthday, but if the name doesn’t ring a bell, you’re forgiven. Indeed, despite being born in Valletta in 1774, he spent most of his adult life abroad, where he made a huge name for himself and built a strong legacy which was carried forward by his two sons: William and Paul.
As a youth, Massimo achieved his start in art thanks to his tutor, Michele Busuttil. He quickly caught the attention of Grand Master Emanuel de Rohan-Polduc, Malta’s penultimate Grand Master, who recommended him for a spot at Rome’s Accademia di San Luca.
He found his way to Paris, where he was called by the French version of his birthname (and remained so for the rest of his life): Maxim. Married by 1804, he travelled extensively through Egypt and the Middle East before settling in England with his family. Interestingly, he never returned to Malta, but it is believed many friends and relatives would frequently pay passage to visit him.
Maxim was considered one of the main people to bring the art of lithography to the forefront of the industry. A printing method, it relies on several chemical processes combined with paintings drawn in oil, fat or wax on flat lithographic plates.
In London, he succeeded in building a lithography business specialising in botanical illustrations – in fact, most of his prints are still found in books today, most notably Nathaniel Wallich’s Plantae Asiaticae Rariores, James Bateman’s Orchidaceae of Mexico and John Forbes Royle’s Illustrations of the botany and other branches of the Natural history of the Himalayan mountains, and of the flora of Cashmere, Vol. II.
Botanical art is not all that he’s remembered for. In fact, 85 of his portrait prints now adorn the walls of London’s National Portrait Gallery, capturing several members of the aristocracy and important public figures of the time.
The lithography business he built along with his sons is remembered as one of the best of the time.
Maltese talent really is everywhere!