Bongiovanni and Vaccaro

Giacomo Bongiovanni brings every day life within the religious scene, through faithful restitution of the natural gestures and expressions. Hid sculptures don’t represent just holy characters but also the protagonists of the real life of the countryside: the peasants who return home on donkey backs, beggars, children, hunters, grandparents who entertain their grandchildren and musicians peddlers.
Real life becomes part of the sacred scene, it changing social scenario, people’s attitudes, common clothes and gestures.
The little sculptures, about 30cm high and executed with remarkable touch, are defined in the most precise details; they are often caught in motion, with faces and expressions of everyday life in the peasant society.
Giacomo Bongiovanni’s grandson, Giuseppe, becomes the classic disciple who surpasses the master: he continued the activity of the workshop, signing himself as Bongiovanni Vaccaro, he received recognition in Italy and in Europe (1962 London Exposition, 1873 Vienna Exhibition) and he expanded the thematic repertoire of subjects, including cheerful themes learned during a stay in Naples, in addition to characters of the bourgeoise and aristocracy of the time, besides historical and mythological subjects.
The success of the Bongiovanni Vaccaro-workshop was a driving force for other craftsmen who, during the nineteenth Century, specialized in this particular subjects that were ‘the only singular and heartfelt manifestation of art that Caltagirone ceramics offers us in the second half of the XIX century’ in a moment of general decline linked to the use of concrete in the floors, to the competition of continental pottery, as well as to the production of the best organized Neapolitan industrie. All these elements had given a fatal blow to the Caltagirone ceramics.
Among the figures of artisan trained in the Bongiovanni-Vaccaro workshop.
Francesco Bonanno occupies an important place, despite his limited production due to his sudden death, at the age of just 45, in 1868.
His works are striking for his mastery in the use of colors and psychological characterization of the brigands, where he seems to show the good side of those criminals, describing the complexity of the human soul.
Two of his statuettes are on Giuseppe Verdi’s desk in the house-museum in Villanova sull’Arda (Piacenza).
In fact, the exceptionality of these terra-cotta figurines is that to anticipate the ways of realistic representation.
These sculptures portray those humble peasants with vivid realism, shepherds and commoners, who are the privileged protagonists of the pages written by Giovanni Verga, and are purchased by part of the wealthy classes.