Domenico Pinto's epic puppets

Domenico Pinto's epic puppets

Raffaele Nigro (from “La Gazzetta del Mezzogiorno” - August 13, 2012)

It took years, but in the end he obtained from the Bishop's Curia of Taranto the permission to buy one of the old warehouses underneath the Palazzo Episcopio in Grottaglie, a spacious room dug into the tuff, and turned it into a laboratory and exhibition room of their ceramics. I'm talking about Domenico Pinto, a terracotta master who I meet in the Ionian town on the occasion of a theatrical show dedicated to the Swabians and played by Alfredo Traversa and Roberto Burano.

The representation takes place in the courtyard of the castle and the cuts of light and the ox eyes emerge among the actors some of the works lent by Pinto for a hint of scenography. They are two large majolica depicting Frederick II and Bianca Lancia. The emperor is portrayed at a young age, enclosed in a creamy, enamelled and glazed majolica gown, a dress embellished with pure gold profiles and a frieze of the petticoat that covers a series of lozenges enriched with flowers. The immediate reference of the figure is to the gothic sculpture, the nanoid body, sketched and deformed, the long and thin neck and the head disproportionate to the rest of the figure. The baby's eyes are lost in the vagus and the hands resting on the belly supporting a hawk and a scepter. Obviously it is blond and wearing a headdress more like a miter than a crown. The second figure has the same dimensions, the same workmanship and style, a golden, meticulously damask coat from whose sleeves come out the hands that hold a scepter in the shape of an artichoke. The dress is white with large blue flowers and on the swan's neck a head once again disproportionate but graceful has a melancholy look. Here it is Bianca Lancia, the most beautiful and unlucky of Federico's lovers, the mother of Manfredi di Svevia who died in the castle of Gioia del Colle and married only shortly before she died.
I like to call them epic puppets, because they recall a historical tradition of our world and refer to events wrapped up in grandiosity and both collective and individual tragedy. In these works emerge all that Domenico has learned and taught at the Art Institute of Grottaglie, what he managed to steal from his teacher Ciro La Grotta.
La Grotta was a "capasonaro", realizing jars for oil and wine of gigantic dimensions, jars painted with ocher and which were once piled up on the terraces of the ceramics district but which today are disappearing. Because they have won wood and plastic, because they require considerable effort and engineering skills.

Teacher and guide

It's a simple character and storyteller Pinto, I just met him and he's already leading me to the laboratory, he explains how it was necessary to break away from the traditional forms of local pottery, invent something that while respecting the code of craftsmanship innovation and art. "I started from my reading - he explains to me - I am passionate about history. I read about the Mediterranean myths of the great mother, I frequented the study of Raffaele Spizzico and I was deeply touched by his "Pomone", the deities of the premagnogreca culture". In 1999 he had created an exhibition at La Grottaglie on "La Donna e il Mito", he had renamed it "Le Muse del Plenilunio" in an exhibition in Mola di Bari. Archaic mothers, rich in objects and symbols: birds, ears , pomi, and which had meanwhile met with the Christian tradition. In 2003 they gave life at the Incoronata di Curtatone to the exhibition "Mary Mother and Woman between Earth and Spirit". Shooting in Santa Maria di Cadossa in Salerno, in "Donne e Madonne".

But Pinto's passion remained Federico the Swabian and the medieval world. Too many readings, too many myths scattered in Puglia and too many miniatures peeked over ancient codes. He opened the chapter in '97 at the trullo Sovrano of Alberobello, with "The ceramics of Frederick II". A success. Critics and sales. Followed by "Le trame dell'Impero", in Potenza and Minervino Murge and finally by "Le donne di Federico", in Oria. Observe the compositional elegance and the decorative richness in the few works left in the shop and in the small catalog edited by Daniela De Vincentis. Works that Pinto entrusts today to his daughter Paola, her pupil and collaborator. "But I kept reading - Domenico tells me again, while we wander around the tables on which the sculptures stand - these Trojan horses are the symbol of Ulysses and I tell the story, the courage, the dreams. Now I look at the Odyssey and it is not excluded that tomorrow I will address the Divine Comedy or stories of the South". As he has already done with the noble Salentines of the Middle Ages Guglielmo Tarallo and Tommaso da Oria and Tommaso da Salice or Orlando Maramonte and with Marshals Jacopo and Niccolò. Engobed and glazed terracotta with luster and gold in a neogothic of absolute refinement.