Carretto Siciliano – The Sicilian Cart

Nothing represents Sicily’s culture more vividly than the exquisitely carved and painted cart. When the first roads were created in Sicily in the early 19th century, so began the colorful history of the Sicilian donkey cart, which were used to transport people, produce, wine and virtually anything else that needed transporting.  The carts were marvels of engineering and art, generally consisting of some 60 parts, all handcrafted by cartwrights, woodworkers, painters, ironsmiths and other skilled artisans. The creators passionately carved and painted elaborate scenes from history, often celebrating the exploits of Charlemagne’s knights or depicting scenes from famous operas like I Pagliacci.  Carts reached the height of their popularity in the 1920s, when many thousand were on the island. Miniature carts, or Carrettino Siciliano, are often sold in Sicily (or in Italian shops and restaurants in other countries) as souvenirs. The Sicilian Carretto is made in several provinces in Sicily each with their own style. Carretti made in the province of Palermo have more of a square box design, those made in Catania are made with more elaborate ‘keys’, and then there are the carts made in Agrigento which have their own distinctive style

Arguably, some of the most acclaimed cart painters of the last century are the Ducato Brothers of Bagheria, near Palermo. Three years ago, at age 80, Giuseppe Ducato was quoted as having painted the cart that now sits in Epcot. Ducato and his son are among the few artisans still producing this dying art. The art and craft of cart building has diminished greatly, beginning during the 1950s when motorized vehicles became abundant and eventually replaced the donkey cart as a means of transportation. Today, they can often be seen in local parades and celebrations.

 A recent photo of Giuseppe Ducato.

 

Sources:

  1. The Carretto Siciliano at Epcot by Gene Duncan: Originally posted on the Disney Parks Blog
  2. Wikipedia

 

Comments

  1. Jan Voss says:

    I recently obtained 2 ornate carved and painted pieces which I have just now learned what they were. They were One was signed by Michele Ducato. One says Sicily 1943. They depict horses with armored men with swords or jousting sticks. Are these a collectible item? How rare are they? Where would I find more info? Thanks in advance for any info you can give me on these.

  2. araden says:

    A reader of this blog sent me an email asking where she might be able to have a Carretto made for her. In doing internet research, I came up with the website of “The Sicilian Wood Carver”, George Petralia. If you are interested in seeing his work, or perhaps commissioning some wood carving, his website is at http://www.sicilianwoodcarver.com/

  3. Vania says:

    Molto bello questo sito, ho messo sul mio blog, bellissima mia sicilia.

  4. Mary Lafuente says:

    The following is from the Bagheria News: It is about Giuseppe Ducato, unfortunately died on February 4th last. He who was the last of 4 brothers who followed in the father’s footsteps in being responsibile for the very colorful and famous “Carretto Siciliano”. One is actually in the Epcot Part of Disney in Orlando. He had followed in his Father’s footsteps, and made the Carretto Siciliano one of the emblems that IS SICILY. Hopefully, his son will follow his father’s love and passion for the Carretto Sicilian and continue in his Father’s footsteps. (I am proud to say, he was my Paesano and a dear friend of one of my brothers.)
    E’ morto Giuseppe Ducato
    Inserito il 04 febbraio 2012 alle 08:59:00 da Redazione. IT – Prima Pagina
    E’ morto Giuseppe Ducato
    Scompare l’ultimo dei 4 fratelli simbolo del carretto di Bagheria
    E’ deceduto questa notte, ad 83 anni, Giuseppe Ducato, artista bagherese, protagonista indiscusso della lunga tradizione della pittura del carretto siciliano. Giuseppe Ducato era l’ultimo esponente di una famiglia che ha reso famosi, assieme ai fratelli Minico, Giovanni ed Onofrio, con i propri dipinti, i carretti siciliani di Bagheria nel mondo.

    Nato a Bagheria il 5 luglio del 1928, Giuseppe Ducato era conosciuto in tutto il mondo e lavorava ancora fino a pochi giorni fa’ insieme al figlio Michele. Il nome della propria famiglia e’ legato indissolubilmente alla pittura popolare, considerata a lungo un arte “bassa” e riscoperta negli anni 70 per volonta’ di Antonio Pasqualino, Ignazio Buttitta e sopratutto Renato Guttuso. Proprio il maestro di Bagheria scriveva: “Il carretto siciliano e’ un simbolo della fantasia, della fierezza, della vitalita’ del popolo siciliano. Alla pittura dei carretti, espressione diretta e accesa della vita del contadino siciliano, debbo gran parte di me. Ai miei amici fratelli Ducato va tutta la mia fraterna amicizia ed ammirazione per la loro capacita’, il loro talento, il loro amore per la nostra terra”.
    I funerali si svolgeranno lunedi’ 6, alle ore 10, presso a Chiesa di San Pietro Apostolo in Via Mattarella
    Alla moglie Carmela Bartolone, al figlio Michele ed ai parenti tutti le condoglianze della redazione del “Settimanale di Bagheria”

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