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May 19, 2023 – Published in Design & Decor Spring-Summer 2023 issue
A timeless rendezvous at Artemisia Fine Arts and Antiques Gallery
Photography Matthew Mirabelli
Christina Thompson is a force of nature! She sweeps you up with her passion and enthusiasm as soon as you enter her impressive gallery in Bidnija. Nevertheless, the selection of classical pieces exhibited at Artemisia are not overshadowed by her vibrant persona.
Rather, they are an extension of her deep devotion to creativity and her exposure to beautiful arts and interiors from a young age, which she credits to her beloved Nanna Tess.
“I love all kinds of art!” Christina declared. “I am fascinated by man’s genius and what we are capable of creating. I have always had an inclination towards any form of beauty in my surroundings. Seeing a flower, viewing an amazing piece of artwork, listening to music – anything that energises me and makes me feel like everything is perfect with the world, despite what I may be going through.”
“Even though the gallery’s present location was not yet available, the idea for Artemisia was born in 2015. The name is derived from a legendary woman who was an avant-garde warrior from 500 BC. After being widowed, Artemisia became the trusted advisor of Persia’s powerful King Xerxes, fighting alongside her men in the battles between Greece and Persia. This awesome woman was the soul behind my new venture!”
During her studies, Christina came across Wagner’s masterpiece concept known as Gesamtkunstwerk, which loosely translates to ‘complete work of art.’ Christina was intrigued by the idea of creating a space which acts like a laboratory integrating individual art forms – a concept which did not exist in Malta at the time – and allows visitors to escape their mundane routines and daily burdens.
The stunning gallery, with its sweeping countryside views, indeed offers a haven within our hectic society.
Artemisia showcases a beautiful assortment of refined pieces that leave you in awe as you wander around the spacious gallery. Every object has been meticulously screened and selected for its aesthetic merit and a combination of its provenance, the story it tells, its uniqueness, its condition, and its brilliant design techniques.
The shelves display a collection of porcelain, silver, fine crystal, and stoneware. Two urns made from a precious material called red porphyry – used by the Pharaohs – are a collector’s item from the days of the Grand Tour. This was a gap-year trip undertaken by noble young European men between the 17th- to the early 19th-centuries, travelling to the old world, such as Rome and Greece, and collecting antiquities as souvenirs.
The walls at Artemisia display prints and ancient maps as well as artwork from different periods. Baroque still lifes rub shoulders with Victorian paintings, and the artwork is a healthy mix of Maltese and international masterpieces. Mediums include watercolours, gouache, and oil on canvas.
Ecclesiastical paintings and votive candelabras sit alongside a relic containing the ulna of St Gereon, one of the patron saints of Cologne, Germany. The back of this relic is stamped with five Jesuit wax seals from the 1600s, to verify its authenticity in a time when grave-robbing and sales of fake relics were rife.
Sculptures and bronze items are also presented, along with exquisite pieces of furniture and wooden dressers with intricate marquetry, ranging from English Jacobean styles from the 1500s, to Maltese late 1600s, and Italian 1700s. A number of patterned antique rugs complete the collection.
“I am a generalist art and antiques dealer,” Christina explained. “I don’t specialise in just one field, because my tastes are so varied, and as a collector and student of life, my curiosity knows no bounds.
One of my dreams is to have art objects spanning human existence, covering Neolithic, Phoenician, Punic, and Roman eras. However, I always make it a point to know where each item is coming from, and sadly, the documentation for such pieces is often incomplete or inaccurate.”
Christina offers a unique portfolio of services for enthusiasts.
One of the services Artemisia provides is the valuation of artworks and antiques. This service is usually needed by those experiencing a death in the family or going through a divorce, or by those requiring an impartial and professional opinion to keep their insurance company’s premiums in check.
“Because it is such a specialist subject, most individuals don’t actually know the true value of their antiques. The hardest part of my work has been managing clients’ expectations. Often, the client is misinformed or completely in the dark about what they actually own or have inherited. I try to go out of my way to pass on whatever knowledge I have with the hope of opening up a whole new insight for each client.”
“Ultimately, though, Artemisia is an educational space,” Christina underlined. “I want to build relationships with people, to give them access to my gallery without the pressure of buying anything. I can seat 100 people here for any student or devotee who wishes to share their amazing research or personal discoveries.”
The journey that led Christina to open Artemisia was long but intriguing.
Enchanted by Indiana Jones’s exciting adventures as a child, she was inspired to study archaeology. She then worked in the family business, starting off as a clerk and working her way to managerial level. After a seven-year stint, she decided to leave the company in pursuit of her dreams and applied to study at Christie’s. During her two years of studies, she was awarded a work internship in the Victorian, Pre-Raphaelite, and British Impressionist Art Department at their London Auction House.
Christina is a University of Malta and Christie's London alumna, having graduated in Archaeology locally and awarded a Masters in Literature of Fine and Decorative Arts (from Renaissance to the Modern period), as well as reading a postgraduate diploma in Art Law and Business. On return to her homeland, she found the right niche for her innovative enterprise – and more!
“This field is so vast,” enthused Christina. “I wanted to place myself in an environment where every day is different, where I could immerse myself into my passion, have meaningful conversations with like-minded individuals, and work with objects that are totally unique from each other. There are no typical days, and whatever I do always forces me to interact with some of the most ingenious and beautifully made items created by our ancestors. What better medicine to counteract the current environment we are all experiencing!’’
Christina hopes that the standards and values her business upholds will inspire others to follow in her footsteps. She continues to offer support to the local artistic community and aspires to work alongside policy makers to develop more robust frameworks for a safer and healthier antiques trade, whilst also working with students and educators to share their exciting revelations with the rest of the island.
Artemisia Fine Arts & Antiques Limited
+356 9998 4494
Visits are strictly by appointment.