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Maltese Dolphin Bookends

18 Sep

Maltese Dolphin:  Brass.  Height 4.5 inches. Inscriptions:  Malta, Made in Malta, also marked with a Maltese Cross.  Attributed to F. Abella and Sons brass foundry.  20th century.

Malta is an archipelago of three small islands in the Mediterranean Sea near Sicily and Italy.  The first people reached Malta in about 5000 BCE and it has experienced a rich history of foreign invasions ever since.  The Order of the Knights Hospitallers of St. John arrived on Malta in 1530 and ruled for  about 300 years.  The Knights were  a Roman Catholic chivalric and military order who adopted the emblem we know as the Maltese Cross in 1126, and which is now associated with the nation of Malta. The Sovereign Military and Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta now has it’s world headquarters in Rome. Malta became part of the British Empire in the early 1800s, and due to the romance of its location, climate, history and culture was a favorite stop-over for wealthy Europeans doing the Grand Tour in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Dolphin door handles and door knockers are an ancient decorative feature on Malta buildings. Much admired by the tourists and ex-patriates that visited Malta; replicas showed up in England as early as mid-1800s. For example, In an 1869 English publication called NOTES AND QUERIES, some one asked the following: “DOLPHIN KNOCKERS…….Perhaps the Marquis of Bath can account for one of the sets of dolphin knockers from Dean Street, Fetter Lane. A pair certainly figure prominently on the door of his home in Berkeley Square.”  A footnote on that same page noted, “We have reason to believe that Lord Bath’s knockers were modelled from examples at Malta.”

Brass Dolphin Bookends from Malta with Maker’s Mark. The popularity of the Malta Dolphin as a reminder of a pleasant sojourn has inspired the 20th century production of brass dolphin door knockers and bookends by the foundries on Malta.

 

National Arms of Malta, from Independence in 1964 until 1975. The two dolphins indicated that Malta is an island state. Image and information from Heraldry of the World.

 

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