Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Tiles of Disaster

Deruta is a charming Italian town known for its ceramics, universally judged best for its quality of hand-painted decoration. For me, the most unusual of Deruta’s sights was a small church of Madonna dei Bagni, located on an undistinguished highway just outside of town.

The church is filled with ceramic votive plaques, given to the Virgin for saving one from an imminent disaster or death. The plaques, known as PGR – an acronym for Per Grazia Ricevuta (For Saving Grace) – show in graphic detail car and airplane crashes, muggings and fires, falls from a tree and vicious dog attacks. The oldest ones date to the 18th century; the newest are only a few years old.

These strange artifacts never fail to amaze. It is hard to imagine a more startling and disturbing clash between a traditional craft and our contemporary tabloid culture. Remarkably, the tiles have been done without a trace of irony, not by hipster-artists, but by devoted craftsmen who believe in redeeming quality of their (unsigned) work.
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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November 23, 2019 at 11:36 AM  

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