Your Christmas Travel Guide to Italian Pottery Events: Ceramic Nativity Scenes in Grottaglie

Dec. 11, 2010 – Jan. 9, 2011
Otranto – Italy

Italian Pottery - Ceramic Nativity scene - Photo credits: www.puglialive.netGrottaglie has been a hot spot for pottery making in Italy since the Middle Ages thanks to its distinctive style and its varied shapes.

The production of Nativity scenes made of painted terracotta started in the 19th century. The figurines were very small: shepherds, angels, the three Kings, Mary, Joseph and Jesus being the key miniature characters of a tiny yet detailed landscape.

At the end of the 19th century the Nativity scenes made in Grottaglie were so popular that many pottery makers specialized in this peculiar art, making celebrated masterpieces. The most famous artists were Petraroli, Manigrasso, Micera, Esposito, Peluso.

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Sicilian pottery – Nativity Scenes from Caltagirone

Caltagirone was Caltagirone Ceramics: Nativity scene - Photo credits: Presepi di Caltagirone - artisti e figurinai nella tradizione calatina - Arnaldo Lombardi Editorefounded as early as the 2nd century B.C. on a steep hill made of clay. The abundance and the good quality of the raw material encouraged the making of pottery and its trade.

First the Romans, then the Greeks, the Arabs, the Spanish and the Normans dominated the city, bringing in their traditional designs and techniques which merged into a unique ceramic production and one of the most distinctive Sicilian pottery traditions.

The Nativity figures were certainly part of the local production already during the Middle Age, as reported in many documents, although no actual example has ever been found due to the terrible earthquake that destroyed the city in 1693.

However, it can be argued that no proper artistic production took place before the 18th century. At this time the more talented potters started to make hand modeled freestanding figures that represented not only the key characters in the Nativity crib, but also the local characters in their daily tasks: the cheese maker, the hunter, the shepherd and so on.

The Real world became part of the Sacred world, carrying into the Nativity Scene the ever changing social scenario, the attitude of people, their everyday clothes and even their common gestures.

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