The portrayal of the wolf in cultural history has been a paradoxical one, with the polarisation of the animal’s character traits alluding to admirable values, and its image vilified by its wild demeanour. In fact, the representation of the wolf as developed over time has rendered the animal symbolically dichotomous; good and evil, positive and negative, spiritual and physical. Some legends and fairy tales have conveyed the threatening stereotypical illustration of the “big bad wolf”, with Adolph Hitler himself appropriating the image and consequently overshadowing the venerable aspects that the wolf possesses. Other narratives have depicted wolves as nurturing creatures with a reverent sensibility, such as the myth of the female wolf who nursed Romulus and Remus.
Above all these attributable oppositions, however, is the wolf’s loyalty towards its family, and its simultaneous regard for freedom and individuality. The concept of the “lone wolf” belies the tenet of Rome’s initiation parable, yet these two idiosyncrasies are fundamental to the personality of this noble creature, and thus opposites are united within the wolf’s natural instinct.
The gesture which represents this inherent contradiction is the wolf’s howl, since this low-pitched call is both a collective action and one which allows wolves to identify each other and to reassemble into a pack if separated. This latter feature makes the wolf a spirit animal representative of deep faith and profound understanding, befitting to those who are capable of leading, and therefore an apt symbolic statement for Grand Master Hughues Loubenx de Verdalle, with the wolf being a hallmark on Verdalle’s coat of arms. A statue of a wolf used to stand atop a column in Valletta, a vehement proclamation of Verdalle’s motif.
At Verdala’s Palace in Buskett, Norbert Francis Attard will memorialise Verdalle and his family’s wolf symbolism with an interactive installation piece. A rectangular steel structure will be raised on two diagonal staircases, which the viewer must climb in order to peak through the opening in the rectangular space. The viewer then encounters a seemingly infinite visual landscape, since the perimeter of the rectangle is lined with mirrors. The exterior of the rectangular perimeter is likewise framed with a reflective surface, to mirror the surrounding natural environment abundantly filled with trees, a feature which strongly defines the function and aesthetic of the palace. Atop the structure is a sculpture of a howling wolf. The viewer can picture themselves amongst the multitudinous reflections of the wolf and the infinite space rendered by the mirrors. At Verdala Palace, the howling wolf now calls out for his benefactor, and for the rest of his pack.
Construction of steel structure by Andrew Vassallo Limited, Gudja, Malta