The art of papier-mâché is an artistic technique of very ancient origin. Intuition of the Chinese, creators of the compound to produce paper, was already used in the fourth century BC. by the Greeks who made something very similar, using the linen fiber to create, together with the stucco and the color, the comic masks of the Commedia Fliacica and the masks to use in the sacred woods.
The objects found, belonging to different eras and geographic areas, allow you to appreciate the quality and ductility of papier-mâché that fascinated personalities from the world of art, crafts and industry throughout history.
Although the art literature of the past considered it “vile material“, because it was obtained from the crushing of rags and not considering it among the subjects of sculpture, in the eighteenth century as well as in the nineteenth century it excelled among the various forms of applied art and this it was his most flourishing period.
It rivaled the “chinoiserie” so much that it pushed oriental fashion to adapt to the culture of the West. Due to the material ductility and the infinite possibilities of application, it was called “the universal technique” and with it they produced furnishings, dolls, rocking horses and any other toy. But it is in the works of great executive commitment that the paper material was used with greater success, such as in ceilings, decorations, theatrical sets and ephemeral apparatuses. In the twentieth century and up to the second postwar period, extensive use was made of this technique for crafts, even in industry and to create various film and theater productions. It was considered the ideal material for spectacular settings and some scenic elements for early television were made in papier-mâché. The papier-mâché in Salento
La Cartapesta in Salento
Nobody knows exactly when and who started producing it to make the first artifacts, but the craftsmanship of Salento or Lecce papier-mâché had and still has a great reputation all over the world. The oldest surviving work is dated 1782 and is signed Pietro Surgente (1742-1827), known as mesciu Pietru te li Cristi (nickname given to him precisely for his activity); it is a San Lorenzo exhibited in Lizzanello (LE) in the ancient church dedicated to the Saint (photo left).
With the multiplication of Catholic missions, at the end of the nineteenth century, the number of churches increased greatly, decreeing the success of the papier-mâché statues and the multiplication of the Lecce papier-mâché makers and the shops that offered work to about a hundred artists and craftsmen who worked there . Some papier-mache models each modeled according to their own intuition or taste, thus creating unique productions but most of them always used the same colors, the same stereotyped shapes, the same folds of the Madonna’s mantle, habits that soon became the sign of distinction and recognition of what were the distinctive characteristics of Sacred Leccese art.
In the province there are several hundred sacred representations of papier-mâché and represent an artistic-handicraft and cultural heritage to be safeguarded and recovered.
In recent years, a bit like it happened at the end of the 19th century, there has been a crescendo of inaugurations of new workshops for the processing and sale of papier-mâché artefacts but there are very few historical realities in which sacred statues of a certain size and important restorations are also carried out. In fact, most of them produce nativities, shepherds for the nativity scene and other small representations that allow a more immediate gain. But the ancient village also hides great masters capable of truly unique works of undoubted artistic relevance.
The Sacred Art workshop of Maestro Claudio Riso in Lecce
it is one of the very few artisan realities, still active in the Salento capital, to come from the “old school” of the great Salento papier-mache masters. Claudio, in fact, began attending for several years the workshop of Maestro Antonio Malecore, one of the most important papier-mâché makers of all time, in Salento, thus learning the secrets and the most ancient techniques of creation and restoration, both of the large votive statues and of the smallest but no less complex ornamental statuettes
A laboratory, that of Claudio and the brothers Giuseppe and Sandro Riso, which over the years has continued a constant work of study and research leading them to innovate the Sacred Art of Salento (we are talking about different shades and small tricks that, in a world still very close to pre-established canons, they can be considered innovation) and to create new articles and objects that go beyond the sacred sphere. So, very soon, the more traditional figures were joined by a production of characters taken from the scenes of peasant and popular life, local crafts in danger of extinction: from the fisherman with the pot on his back, to the farmer with caciotte, to the stuffer of chairs and other popular characters
The Collection: The Professionals
This year, the collection of Professions debuted, born from the request of a customer to thank a specialist who had cured it. This is a very nice idea because it allows you to create different professional figures, starting from the photos of the person you want to represent, creating a very similar 3D copy, both in the build and in the shape and features of the face, skilfully reproduced together with the clothing and work tools; such as the radiologist’s plates, the reporter’s microphone, the musician’s flute or other characterizing details.
Your 3D Professional will be a unique and precious object, it is made entirely by hand with head and limbs modeled in terracotta, body in straw and wire and papier-mâché clothes, modeled and then painted with care in the smallest details. The colors and blends used to paint the statues are designed to offer the best appearance and long life.
A unique and very special gift, perfect to pay homage to your doctor, lawyer or specialist for the services received; to give to a friend or relative who is retiring, for yourself if you love to have a three-dimensional memory of your business to be exhibited in the studio or to collect together with other celebrities that can be requested tailored among professionals in each sector.
Here’s how to request a custom 3D Professional
Requesting a 3D Professional in Lecce papier-mâché is very simple, you will just need some photos of the subject to represent and a small description.
The procedure is very fast:
- Make a purchase request from the Arte Sacra Caludio Riso eShop, choosing any of the professionals already in the showcase.
- By completing the purchase procedure, indicate in the notes: “Personalization” (not essential).
- Complete the purchase operation by paying for the order through paypal (guaranteed transaction) you can use all types of credit cards even if you do not have PayPal or choose bank transfer.
- At this point the order is sent and you will be contacted immediately to send the photos and information necessary for personalization.
Generally the time to make a custom professional is about 30 days + 2/3 days for shipping to Italy. The dimensions are approximately 30 cm in height and 18 x 14 cm in width and depth, while the weight is 400 g. about (Shipping times for Europe range from 3 to 6 days, USA 4 – 7 days, rest of the world from 5 to 12 days).