Cartapesta is an antique art form which uses papier-mâché to create angels and other sculptures. Papier-mâché, which translates to chewed paper, was first made in China in the second century AD before being adopted in France, Germany, Italy and Spain. Once in Italy, specifically Lecce, Italy, it was used for cartapesta, oftentimes called “the poor man’s marble”. By the seventeenth century, cartapesta was in full bloom and was considered an upper-class art form. During this time period cartapesta was used to create furniture, statues and ornaments. In Lecce, Italy, where it was very popular to use papier-mâché, sculptors would create designs of nearly everything and everyone, from peasants to saints and angels.
The PAST Antiques Marketplace carries some cartapesta angelic ornaments and mantel pieces. The angels are fragile and majestic with intricate detail displaying their fine feathered wings and other features. Many of these beautiful angels carry instruments with immense detail including trumpets, violins, symbols, and even small harps. The history on these angels dates back to the fifteenth century, when papier-mâché was most popular.
Papier-mâché was a long and time consuming art, every cartapesta creation was hand-painted making them all one-of-a-kind. Every face and sculpture had its own unique look, just like the angels at The PAST Antiques. Papier-mâché was also made using a clay mold. The clay, which was a negative imprint of the design, was pressed down hard with the papier-mâché and soaked in water, then left to harden. Once removed from the mold, the piece could be painted and smoothed over. This allowed for more generic styles of papier-mâché.
Many of these methods for sculpting papier-mâché are still used today. For centuries, the people of Lecce, Italy have held a holy week where they carve and create statues of holy figures and angels. With the invention of papier-mâché and cartapesta, it became much easier to create sculptures. In addition, the lightweight material, especially compared to ordinary marble, could be transported with ease. This made the event easier for artists to show off their work and add many more sculptures to the celebration.
The PAST Antiques Marketplace at Nature’s Art Village has a beautiful selection of cartapesta and papier-mâché angels. These are excellent gift or decorations for the holiday season. Visit The PAST Antiques on Route 85 in Montville, Connecticut to see our full selection of antiques and vintage collectibles.