Let's discover the Moors Head, the traditional Sicilian vases representing a man and a woman, since they were born from a tragic love story

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The Moors Heads are typical Sicilian ornamental vases. Made of hand-painted ceramic, they resemble the faces of a man and a woman and although they are among the most popular souvenirs of Sicily, there is actually much more to these vases. They represent not only the mastery of local artisans, but also an ancient and sad legend which has its roots in history, and which has come down to us thanks to these artefacts.

The Moors Head vases, also called Graste in Sicilian dialect, are widespread throughout the island, but Caltagirone is considered their homeland. This city, in fact, is famous for its wonderful handmade pottery, which is among the most original and authentic products of the rich craftsmanship of Sicily.

The Moors Head and the Sicilian ceramics tradition

Sicily's ceramics - moors head

There are so many good reasons to visit Sicily that it is difficult to even count them all. From wonderful beaches to good food, from incredible archaeological ruins to baroque cathedrals, without forgetting the indisputable charm of a walk on the slopes of its always active volcano, Mount Etna.

However, Sicily is also a land of excellent artisans, in fact some of the best Italian ceramics are created on this beautiful island. Decorative motifs that take inspiration from nature and the colors of the Sicily, ancient traditions and great creativity have given rise, for centuries, not only to the famous Moors Head, but also to many other artefacts. For example, dishes, vases, kitchen objects, tiles and even pine cones are hand made. The pine cones, particularly, come in all colors and all sizes and as souvenirs they are almost as famous as the Moor's Heads.

The legend of the Moors Head

the history of the moors head

There are several variants of the legend of the Moors head, one of which was also taken up by Boccaccio in his Decameron. In the oldest version, however, this story begins more than a thousand years ago, in the Kasbah, the Arab neighborhood of Palermo.

In the beautiful capital city of Sicily, at that time dominated by the Moors,  lived a beautiful young woman who loved spending hours and hours taking care of the plants on her balcony. A Saracen soldier fell in love with the girl at first sight and she gave in to the his court. They fell madly in love with each other, but their happiness was not meant to be.

The girl, in fact, discovered that her lover soon would have to return to the East, where he already had a wife and children waiting for him. Mad with jealousy, she waited for the night, killed the soldier in his sleep and cut off his head. From her macabre trophy the girl created a vase where she planted basil, the plant of passion and love.
Thanks to her daily care, the sprout became a fragrant and lush plant, so everyone who saw it wanted to make terracotta vases in the shape of a Moors head.

Moors head: from myth to fashion

The beauty of the faces, the richness of the decorations, the brilliance of the colors, it's impossible not to be enchanted by the Moors Head. These beautiful vases are fashionable as supplements for home and as outdoor furniture, especially when combined with a distinctly Sicilian or Arabic style. They are usually given as a couple, for good luck.

The Moors of Caltagirone are especially famous, since this is the place where very high quality ceramics is made, however both the Moors Heads and other fine ceramics can easily be found throughout Sicily.

Sicilian ceramics have recently gained a prominent place in the world of Italian fashion too. The famous designers Dolce & Gabbana, for example, have been inspired several times, even creating a collection dedicated to the Moors Head.  

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