Trades, themes & collections

The ‘tufa‘ (rough, thick, rock-like calcium carbonate deposit) was the raw material from which the scalpellino obtained different artefacts: fonts, mortars, drinking troughs… It used a harder stone, the ‘mazzaro‘, in order to realize millstones for the wheat and the spelt. His utensils were limited and rudimentary: he had chisel, hammer and characteristic iron scrapers. […]
In the peasant families everyone worked: men, women and boys. The peasant’s day began at first lights at dawn: he got up from the bed stuffed with dry corn leaves and went toward the mule shed to clean it and pick up the manure to use as fertilizer. He looked up the animals, loaded on […]
The cobbler’s shop was usually very small. The work-bench of this artisan took very little space so it was often placed in the space under the stairs. Most of the peasants’ children didn’t had shoes. When they had them the adults tried to make them last as long as possible: they made the cobbler put […]
In Via del Commercio (now Via delle Beccherie) there were numerous coppersmiths’ shops (quallaroll). They worked on a typical three leg seat constituted by a strong wood easel with a long iron bar inserted oblique in the center of the seat: it was shaped by a side to give the shape to the bottom of […]
The saddler (‘uarnam’ntêr’) was the artisan that manufactured harnesses, packsaddles, horses collars… It was a complex job because was needed ability in the craftmanship of the leather, wood and brass. The brass once hammered and variedly engraved with popular motives was used for the saddles, collars and blinkers ornaments.
The knife-grinder (ammulafurce) was the artisan employed in the cutting tools recovery. In his shop or in the quarters of the town, he sharpened work and domestic tools with the grindstone moved by crank or bicycle pedals. It was an essential work as all the utensils used for the work in the fields or in […]
In Matera the production of artefact in terracotta was flourishing (objects for domestic use, materials for building) because of the large availability of clay in the zone. It was extracted from the gullies and the lake basins and carefully cleaned up to eliminate the lime in order to avoid that the objects produced get bursted […]
The conciapiatti (cunza piott) was an itinerant artisan experienced in mending umbrellas and sewing up again the broken terracotta objects. He announced his arrival with a sing-song similar to a complaint and he started his work once the women surrounded him with their broken crockery. He perforated the crocks with a rudimentary rope-drill then he […]
The tailoring was a particular shop that was frequented by the most well-off citizens. A suit sewn by a tailor was a luxury that the peasants could had few times in their life: often on the deathbed they wore the same suite of the marriage day. Therefore, the women tried to adapt the garments of […]
In Via Chiancalata there were various blacksmith’s shops (f’rrer ), which were forges with walls blackened by the smoke in which it towered a gigantic bellow of wood, iron and leather. It was operated by the apprentice through a chain and it had an autonomy of some minutes thanks to a long iron tube that […]
The mastro d’ascia was the carpenter that performed heavy carpentry works: he built strokes, tubs, barrels, and distaffs; he assembled looms, he built and mended drawings. Heavy axes, great planes and compasses, hammers, drills, saws and tools for the edging were the tools that this artisan used with great talent, mastery and precision, especially when […]
The cabinetmaker was the carpenter specialized in furniture. He used smaller utensils than the mastro d’ascia: among the vices, the drills and the saws, there was the round little planes, those for the frames, the carving and inlay tools.
The ‘ciddari‘ were wine cellars and places of relaxation for peasants and small artisans that met there in the evening to speak of the daily problems especially in winter when they were free from the work in the fields. The cellars were dug in the tufa of the Murgia and they were more spacious than […]
The brigandage was the expression of the deep discontent that troubles the South Italy and it was not a plague of political type as many supposed but it was and it is essentially a social plague, so of moral and economic kind. The brigand is most of the times a poor peasant or shepherd less […]
In the peasant family it was usual to see 7-8 year-old boys wandering in the fields and helping their parents in the pull-out of the grasses, in the seeding, reaping, threshing and vintaging. They were boys precociously started up to work and taken away from schools despite the scholastic obligation laws. All of them learned […]
The cotton, flax and wool transformation in cloths consisted in different working phases that the women of the Sassi carried out in their houses. The first one consisted in removing cotton seeds through a wood tool with a crank (‘u magnanidd‘). Then they passed to the spinning through the spindle and the distaff and to […]
Most of the peasants lived in the caves or later in the ‘lamione’ a single-room on ground floor illuminated and aired just by the entry-door and a window above it. The mule shed was inside the men’s residence: some times the manger was so close to the beds that during the night it was not […]
‘You shall not covet your neighbor’s goods’. With this commandment the Church blamed for social envy who wanted other people’s properties and comforted the humble and the poor, reminding them of the Kingdom of Heaven that was waiting for them (see ‘Sermon on the Mount’). The Church, which always declared to be on the humble […]
In the ancient times the lighting was based on the lighting power of fire. For this purpose mineral and vegetable oil, wax and animal fat were burned. Up to 19th century, beside the use of mirrors for a better light diffusion, there weren’t substantial technical improvements. It was with the finding of the lighting gas […]
The shepherds in the long breaks from the guard of the flock made works of wood-carving. On a dry-stone wall or in the scrub they perceived the real world around them but produced artefacts tied up with the sphere of their own requirements. They made a limited quantity and variety of objects (almost always small […]
The bread stamp was a tool tied up to the agricultural-pastoral world: produced by the shepherds, the stamp had the function to stamp the mark of ownership on bread dough before cooking. It  was made by a single wood block (10-20 cm) carved and decorated. It was divided in two parts: the lower part, with […]