The Wild-Haired Women of Paulo Sandulli

Paulo Sandulli creates art in an 800-year-old medieval tower.

Assiola was built as a defense lookout in 1270 when Praiano had a thriving silk industry and marauding pirates were a constant threat.

The curious round structure was the first thing I noticed from my terrace when I arrived. You really can’t miss it. I Googled: Tower in Praiano, and Signore Sandulli’s name popped up. I read about this multi-talented artist and knew I had to meet him.

Today I did.

The rugged approach was challenging after the 2,966,843 steps down from the street. I exaggerate, but not much. It’s rumored that Sandulli has goats. I didn’t see them, but the terrain would suit.

The door to the studio was open. He motioned me in. Oh, please converse in English, I prayed.

He did so with eloquence.

As one would expect, the circular space was a visual cornucopia. Sandulli has been working his magic here for thirty years. Right now he’s madly pumping out product preparing for the summer onslaught of tourists who flock to buy his pieces.

“Do you ever get tired of creating?” I asked, wondering how anyone could maintain that level of productivity over such a span of time. He raised his eyebrows, no doubt surprised at my cheeky question, looked around to ensure we were alone, then nodded the affirmative.

He was obviously able to power through whatever boredom might plague him. The room, bursting with torsos and busts, attested to that. He told me the figure beside him with glasses was a likeness of his father. I could see the resemblance.

On shelves and tabletops were rows of women sporting hair in a riot of colors. “Sponges,” he said. He removed one elegant lady’s updo and handed it to me. It was light as cotton balls.

For the next hour, the master himself treated me to a personal tour of his studio – a workplace magical and enthralling.

He excels in every medium: clay, oils, watercolor, acrylics. I paged through reams of charcoal sketches that prefaced his creations.

Unfinished busts sat drying, works in progress, and the blue box in the background is his kiln.

Mermaids cavorted in bathtubs…

Scantily dressed teams played tennis…

Nudes rode sea creatures. He told me the name of this fish…grouper maybe?

And in their private glass case, a group of fishermen played cards.

Sandulli’s muse Eleonora, “…was born in a tower overlooking the sea not very different from this one,” he said of the Aragonese princess, who in 1473 sealed a dynastic union by becoming the wife of the Duke of Ferrara. A picture of her hangs on the wall.

Paulo’s process is a study in economy and brilliance. He has only a few molds he uses for the chest and hip portions of the body. Then he attaches the head and limbs and assigns different positions to make each character a unique individual. For those that ride sea creatures, the hips spread wide for stradling broad backs. On some he attaches a mermaid’s tail.

It’s similar with the busts. The basic head is the same, but while the clay is still malleable he varies the shape of the eyes, nose, mouth, ears, and gives each one a personality.

The terracotta figures are flamboyant and fun. But Paulo’s paintings tell deeper stories.

As my visit drew to a close, I thanked him for sharing his time and he grew contemplative. “This tower was used to defend Praiano from people who would have destroyed her,” he said. “With my paintings I also wish to defend this place. Make a record for future generations before it is lost.”

It’s a noble cause. Thank you, Signore Paulo Sandulli. I wish you well.

Oh, and by the way, please keep that painting for me, You know the one. I’ll be back.

7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. stevecastley
    Feb 13, 2020 @ 03:21:58

    Love this post. Keep them coming.

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  2. Anonymous
    Feb 13, 2020 @ 07:23:47

    Again…..what an amazing adventure. Another reason it’s good that it’s off season.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

    • writingforselfdiscovery
      Feb 17, 2020 @ 18:23:13

      Whoops! I missed your comment – 4 days ago?! It is an amazing adventure, and I’m really glad to be here in February. The weather has been, perfect for stair climbing! I don’t think I could do it in the heat of summer! The empty streets and alleyways are mine to explore at leisure without dodging traffic or bodies! I get enough of that at home!

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  3. gailorgias
    Feb 13, 2020 @ 07:55:15

    Just loving your adventures – thank you for sharing Sherry – as good as being there!
    A few years ago, stayed in town of Minori and walked the 1100 ft of uphill steps to the magical town of Ravello. You must not miss this town.Was fortunate enough to go to a Festival piano concert in a church – the audience as interesting as performance – did not realise that it would be dark when we came out – so a steep downhill climb with very little lighting. A challenging workout for the knees and ankles!

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    • writingforselfdiscovery
      Feb 13, 2020 @ 16:21:15

      There are so many fabulous towns in southern Italy. The north has the truly famous ones, but I love the south! You were brave to navigate those steps in the dark…very challenging! Here some of the stairs are lighted, low on the wall so they illuminate just the steps and don’t shine in your eyes. But not all of them. Thanks for coming with me on the adventure!

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  4. Diane Struble.
    Feb 14, 2020 @ 15:59:27

    I love the ladies in the tubs. What a great place to visit.

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