Sicilian Moorheads: the all-Sicilian icon born of a troubled love affair
The Moor's Head is a characteristic object of Sicilian tradition that perfectly embodies the essence of Made in Sicily craftsmanship. "Teste" or "Graste" (in Sicilian dialect) are a vase-like ornament made of hand-painted ceramic and are generally made in pairs, as they depict the face of a man and a woman. They can be seen on the streets of the island adorning balconies and ancient villas. Daughters of an age-old tradition, these prestigious works of art are not generated by the artistic flair of a craftsman, but rather by an ancient legend that dates back to the time of Moorish rule on the island. Legend has it that around the year 1100, in the Arab quarter of Palermo, the "Kalsa," there lived a beautiful maiden with eyes so deep that they seemed to reflect the Gulf of Palermo. The young woman spent her days taking care of the plants on her balcony. One day, from the top of her flowering balcony, she noticed that a young Moor as soon as he saw her, fell in love with her and did not hesitate to declare his love for her. The young woman, impressed by the promise of love she received, welcomed and passionately returned the young man's sentiment. The young Moor hid a burdensome secret; soon he would have to leave Sicily to return to the East where his wife and children awaited him. The maiden disappointed and stricken by such news, filled with rage, in the night while the Moor had fallen into a deep sleep unaware of his fate, seized the propitious moment and struck him deadly, cutting off his head; thus it was that the maiden made, with the mowed head, a vase and put it on display outside in her balcony. She planted basil inside, which grew luxuriantly and aroused the envy of all the inhabitants of the neighborhood who, not to be outdone, had terracotta pots specially made in the shape of the Moor's Head. Today Sicily, holds the leadership in the sale of these beautiful works of art; in fact, Moorheads represent a distinctive and unique Made in Sicily object.