Monday, June 6, 2011

Giacomo Serpotta and Palermo

Oratorio di San Lorenzo
image released to the public domain
The Sicilian sculptor, Giacomo Serpotta, is one of Sicily's most gifted artisans, known for his sculptures of stucco and hails from Palermo. Stucco was a difficult medium to work in because it dried fast (and even more so in the heat of the island) and left little room for error.

Serpotta is also believed to have come up with the idea of adding marble dust to his stucco recipe -- this gives the stucco a more lustrous appearance than it might normally have. The ingredients in his recipe are somewhat of a mystery today, and no other artist really ever matched Serpotta's skill in stucco.

Serpotta is believed to have never left Sicily (although some conjecture that he was trained in Rome since much of his work resembles that of the stucco master, Antonio Raggi), and he learned much about the artistic currents of Italy by working with other artists on the island as well as studying engravings and drawings. Serpotta's work can be found all over Palermo as well as in Alcamo in the Province of Trapani (some also believe that Serpotta worked in Agrigento, but this, too, is up for debate).

Donald Garstang wrote a very comprehensive work about the artistic career of Giacomo Serpotta and the stucco artists of the Sicilian Baroque. A translation of this work exists in Italian, having been recently published in 2006 (actually, the Italian version has slightly better photographic reproductions). The English edition is available in numerous libraries around the world but is now out of print.

Adriana Chirco has a chapter devoted to Serpotta in her book, Palermo, la città ritrovata : itinerari entro le mura. This chapter features a walking tour of Serpotta's works throughout the city as well as information on the artist, too.

This web site has a lot of useful information and photos on the artist.

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