Are you a fan of the Italian maximalist look, as seen in the popular TV series The White Lotus? If you are, then you know that one of the key elements of this style is the stunning Testa di Moro vase. This unique and iconic piece can add a touch of elegance and sophistication to any home decor. But where do you find the perfect vase? In this article, we’ll take you on a journey to uncover the secret to finding the perfect Testa di Moro vase. From ancient traditions to where to buy one, I’ll share tips and hidden gems to help you add this timeless piece to your home.
The Testa di Moro (Moor’s head) is a characteristic object of the Sicilian tradition. It is a hand-painted ceramic vase, used as an ornament and representing the face of a Moor and sometimes a beautiful young woman. Behind this famous object is an interesting legend…
Understanding the Ancient Tradition of the Testa di Moro Vase
Walking through the streets of the historic centers of Sicily, it is very easy to encounter these wonderful works of art. The Testa di Moro, also called “Grasta”, has been enriching Sicilian balconies for centuries.
Its tradition is thousands of years old and many artists have been inspired by its ancient legend to create unique and inimitable works of art.
It takes place in the 1100s when Sicily is under Moorish rule.
A young Moorish man falls madly in love with a Sicilian woman who offers herself to him without knowing that he is married and has children.
When she learns about his treason, she kills him out of anger and grief. She then decides to cut off his head to make a vase in which to plant basil seeds. The girl loves to care for plants and knew that this fragrant plant (from the Greek “Basileus – King”) represented the herb of the rulers. In this way, despite the terrible act performed, she continued to care for her beloved as if he were her king.
Today, the Testa di Moro wears a crown, in memory of the protagonist of the sad story.
Sicilian ceramics from Caltagirone
Sicily is famous for its ceramics, in particular the Testa di Moro di Caltagirone, the main place of production of high-quality ceramics. A production that has become a symbol of the city, not least because of the many Greek, Byzantine, Arab, and Norman influences that have contributed to the development of the precious art of Sicilian ceramists.
Most ceramic objects feature bright, garish colors, making them unique and particularly eye-catching. As it may seem, the Caltagirone’s Moorish heads were first made in the 18th century by local artisans using ancient techniques passed down from generation to generation. Each piece is therefore unique and unrepeatable, representing the city’s art and tradition.
Look for ceramics made in Caltagirone or Sicily.
Things to consider when looking to buy a testa di moro
There are a few things to keep in mind when looking for a traditional Moorish head such as:
- It should be handmade.
- It should come from Sicily (even better if it’s made in Caltagirone).
- It’s often painted with bright colors.
- The head should be topped with a crown.
Now that you know what to look for, you could choose to go two ways:
The way the collector and try to find an antique and unique Testa di Moro or decide to go with a contemporary yet legitimate version of this ceramic piece.
Finding an antique/vintage Testa di Moro vase
To find an antique Testa di Moro vase, you’ll have to look for reputable antique dealers who specialize in Italian art and design. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and seek out expert guidance in your search.
With a little patience and perseverance, you can find a truly stunning and unique antique Testa di Moro vase that will become a cherished part of your collection. But be aware that since they are trending you’ll have to be perseverant and quick to find one.
Check out sites like Pamono, 1st dibs, Chairish, Selency, and eBay regularly to see if something new has been published.
And for those who don’t need their testa di Moro to be an antique, there is plenty of Sicilian ceramists that have the traditional know-how and still make these beautiful vases by hand.
Finding a contemporary Testa di Moro Vase
Today, the tradition of testa di Moro lives on through the new generations of Sicilian ceramists. They sometimes add a modern twist to the ancient tradition which can be manifested by a different shape or size or more minimalist in terms of colors. But most of the time you’ll stumble upon traditional teste di Moro.
Let’s see my selection of contemporary Moorish heads made according to the ancient tradition:
Etsy Marketplace: The place to find a Testa di Moro
You’ll find a variety of modern vases online, ranging from bold and colorful to minimalist and elegant. The problem is that you never know how trustworthy are these websites. Luckily, Moor’s heads are typically the kind of items that are perfect for the Etsy marketplace which makes the process of buying much more comfortable and reassuring. I made a selection of Etsy shops where you’ll find traditional Testa di Moro. These dealers are all from Sicilia and have good reviews on Etsy.
>> Also check out my Etsy collection of Testa di Moro
During my research, I found these Italian websites that sell beautiful Moorish heads, and that looked legit to me.
A slightly more modern take on Moorish heads
Earlier in this article, we saw that some ceramists were taking some liberties with the traditional rules of manufacturing and this is not to our displeasure! Here is a selection of my favorite Moorish heads with a more modern twist :
Where to shop for a more modern take on these Moorish heads :
Popolo (I have a “coup de coeur” for this french boutique specializing in Italian ceramics)
“Chi cerca trova “
As the Italian saying goes, “Chi cerca trova” – he who seeks shall find. The search for the perfect Testa di Moro vase doesn’t have to be a daunting task. By understanding the ancient tradition and exploring various options, you can find a vase that speaks to your style and budget. From antique dealers to modern boutiques, I hope this article helped you sort through and decide which type of testa di moro vase is right for you. Let it be a conversation starter and a statement piece in your space.