Wonderful painted ceramic pots with an antropomorphic shape, the Teste di Moro (Moor heads) adorn the balconies of the streets in historical Sicilian city centres. Also known as Graste, they have become a symbol of the island's handicraft and culture. Behind them, lies a story made up of passion, popular beliefs and old customs, which has been handed down over the centuries.
Black, white, colourful or monochromatic, the handmade creations draw fully on the great Sicilian tradition, highlighting the distinctive features of fine artistic work: every piece is unique and reveals all the qualities of Sicily's ceramic school, through its shapes, colours and textures, making it one of the most renowned in the world.
Legend tells that around year 1100, when Sicily was under the Arab domination, there lived a beautiful girl in the ancient Arab neighbourhood of Kalsa, in the centre of Palermo. One day, as she was taking care of the plants on her balcony, she was noticed by a young Moor who fell madly in love with her and immediately declared his love. The young lady was struck by his strong feelings and returned them. Yet, the man did not tell her that he had a wife and children living in the East whom he would soon go back to.
Once she discovered the cheating, the girl was blinded by jealousy. She killed the man in his sleep, cutting off his head and from it she crafted a vase in which she planted a basil bud. She then affixed the Moor's head on the balcony and watered it with tears. The basil grew lush, becoming the envy of the whole neighbourhood of Kalsa. From that moment on, everyone began to decorate their balconies with terracotta vases, modelled in the shape of the Moor's head.
Today Moor head vases are usually made in pairs. They depict a man wearing a turban and a woman bearing a crown, both adorned with jewels, flowers and citrus fruit. The vases are not only used to decorate balconies and verandas, but also home interiors, restaurants, bars and hotels. It is impossible not to be charmed by the beauty of the faces, the rich decorations and vibrant colours.
To this day, these amazing traditional pieces are created, shaped and painted by the hands of master craftsmen in the workshops of cities like Caltagirone and Santo Stefano di Camastra, centres of excellence for ceramic art in Sicily and the world. Extraordinary, refined home accessories for indoor and outdoor spaces, the vases not only fit classic, Sicilian or Arab style decorated settings, but also minimalist and elegant environments, especially when boldly combined with contemporary design pieces.
The Pigna (pine cone) is also part of the tradition and it is a recurring figure in ceramics. The pine tree is a symbol of prosperity and immortality and its fruit contains divine qualities. For this reason, pine cones have been given away as a good omen of fertility and richness since ancient times.
Artistic representations of a story of love, jealousy and revenge which have become legends, the Teste di Moro and the Pigne fascinate with their charm and appearance. Besides serving as vases, they can also be used for more creative purposes (umbrella stands, table bases and so forth), as home accessories or outdoor decorative sculptures.
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