Italy-Lecce's Papier-mache { 65 images } Created 9 Nov 2010

The ancient origins of papier maché lie in the Middle and Far East and only in the Middle Age this technique arrived in Europe.
In the 17th the intense trade between Venice's Republic and merchants from Salento, in Apulia's Southern Italy, determined the development in Lecce of what in Puglia was a typical phenomenon of Lecce, the art of the "cartapesta" as was locally called the papier maché. With the artistic peak due to the building of many churches and monuments, the city's sixteen Confraternities asked for religious statues that offered a speed of execution and lightness of materials although it perfectly imitated bronze and marble, so it could easily be carried in a procession.
The Lecce's craftmen didn't possess any valuable materials but found in the art of modelling paper, with the help of straw, rags, plaster, and few tools, the opportunity of realizing a great number of religious statues. Today the production of paper-maché, mostly concentrated around Lecce, is the result of this tradition and the actual production is generally represented by statues reproducing mainly holy subjects, like saints, with a particular care for dresses, realized in a very detailed way. In the last years, with a renewal of this art by young artists, the production is addressing more and more towards new subjects. Traditionally "cartapesta" is pulp paper macerated in a solution of water and flour glue, tamped into a and boiled. The mass is then pressed to remove excess water and mixed with a solution of animal glue, pasta starch and resin. The resulting compound is applied onto a wooden armature or plaster cast. Then the work is left to slowly dry outdoors or in heated rooms and then hot irons tools are used to mark the folds and amend the expressive details. Once coated with substances to protect it from moisture the model is ready for coloring.
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