Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Guttuso, Vucciria

Summer is rapidly waning, and soon summer's bounty as seen at outdoor markets will be gone, too. What better way to hold onto it a while longer than by an examination of a work by Sicilian painter Renato Guttuso (1911-1987), called Vucciria.

The Vucciria is an old, old market in Palermo- about seven centuries old. It comes, surprisingly, from the French boucherie, or butcher shop. And in fact the beef carcass (still being worked on by the man with a knife, to the right) is prominent. It would be hard not to see a sort of allegory of his native land in this: the almost garish light, the sunny colors expressive of earth's plenty and benevolence, alongside the crude fact of death, right in its midst. With a group of oddly silent and uncommunicative (for a market) men and women, with their backs to us or with impassive expressions. The man who is cutting the beef with a large knife has his eyes, and thus identity, hidden.

Guttuso was certainly interested in food, not rare for an Italian. Although he is considered a major 20th centurt artist, he did not hesitate to contribute the illustrations for the cookbook Italian Food, by Elizabeth David, an Englishwoman who introduced Italian and French cooking to her countrymen (who certainly needed it) in the post-war period.

It's fun to try to make out the different objects in the scene. Here's a video that helps you focus on the riches portrayed.

I can make out, in no particular order, the beef, a smaller carcass to the right (rabbit?), eggs, eggplant (naturalmente), fish and seafood (octopus, swordfish, squid, crayfish/scampi?), cheeses (mozzarella, parmigiano, Emmenthaler, a cheese with red rind), fennel, pears, leeks (or large scallions?), lemons, zucchini, tomatoes (including canned), sausages, mortadella, salami, bell peppers, oranges, olives, herbs, melons?, persimmons?, chilies, bananas, apples, dried fruit, and celery.