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The 7th Wednesday after Easter and the 3rd week end in September
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December 13


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La Vucciria - Through Renato Guttuso's Sicilian Eyes.

Posted by Suzanne Turrisi on 14 Apr 2024

It is bold, colourful and mesmerising in every detail, and I cannot believe it took me nearly 30 years to see it. That was in January 2023. I’m talking about Sicilian artist Renato Guttuso’s famous 1974 painting ‘La Vucciria’. Housed in the gothic 13th century Palazzo Chiaramonte Steri on Piazza Marina, Palermo.

It depicts one of Palermo’s famous markets, La Vucciria in its day. It has now, without doubt, changed.

Guttuso's 'La Vucciria -1974

Once Chaotic and the Shanghai Restaurant with the Red Awning

Tucked down a narrow winding side street off Via Roma near the handsome 17/18th  century church of San Domenico today La Vucciria has the odd fruit and butcher shops, some bric a brac, cheap eateries, and street bars.

Gone are the serious fish vendors and the red awninged Shanghai restaurant which was on the first floor of a derelict building overlooking the central piazza.

When I saw Vucciria sometime in the early 2000's the market was fading. I ate at Shanghai on the terrace from memory and recall the piazza awash with vendors in galoshes hosing it all down. 

The one feel today’s La Vucciria still has is that charming chaotic, faded and nonchalant Palermitan air. 

Guttuso's La Vucciria - my favourite detail

Guttuso’s huge still life hangs alone in a room in Palazzo Chiaramonte Steri. This imposing palazzo was once the fortified stronghold of the powerful Chiaramonte family.  On my 2023 visit to view Guttuso's La Vucciria the ticket included a tour of the Museum of The Holy Inquistion. 

My favourite detail of this iconic painting is the dark haired female shopper walking through the narrow street of the market with her back to the viewer.


Guttuso's painting is full of food detail yet, the female shopper is centre stage

According to the notes accompanying this masterpiece, ‘the true protagonists of this overflowing scene are the objects’.

Yes, the painting is packed with a huge lot of dazzling fresh produce- fruit, vegetables, meat, cheese, fish, olives and your eyes can’t but notice all this wonderful detail. It's Sicilian food documented. It's realistic and mesmerizing. And, I can see a surrealism (with my interested yet layman’s eye) which the notes mention.

For me though, the curvaceous female figure is central to this painting. She simply cannot be ignored.

She strides through the market with strength, ease and purpose. She leads.




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