The beating heart of Anime di terracotta. The award-winning artist behind the mask.

Michele De Chiara is an established artist and artisan, known for his extraordinary talent in creating terracotta masterpieces mainly for figurines of the nativity scene, Pulcinellas and ceramic lucky horns at Anime di Terracotta (Terracotta souls).

We met interviewed him last Christmas and discovered the different art forms through which he moves. While calling himself simply a ceramist, in reality he deals with theatre, ceramic painting, poetry and, for a year now, he has been the official Pulcinella of the Acerra museum.

He has already been awarded as excellence of Campania as the greatest interpreter of the Pulcinella mask and has also been invited to Procida, capital of culture 2022, as an artist of the moment. A presepe made by him is now exhibited in the Diocesan museum of Acerra. And an exhibition of some of his works, including the terracotta Pulcinella with the three lands, will be held on December 17th at the house of the Marquises of Pulcrano. For his artistic qualities he is going to be awarded with the prize of ambassador of the Pulcinella museum.

Yet another notable achievement is that his work entitled ‘O Peccato ‘e Pullicenella (Pulcinella’s sin) which represents Pulcinella drunk sitting on a barrel, will go to Pope Francis, just as this edition is published on December 15th 2022.

peccato di Pulcinella

About him as a ceramist, we have to talk of his Pulcinellas, which are unique, first of all because they are completely natural, made entirely with clay. Then they don’t wear fabric or paint. In order to give them different colors he uses three types of terracotta: the classic red terracotta, the white earth and the black earth. Michele’s Pulcinellas are the representation of the character, of that soul, that we know through the Neapolitan theater. In fact, every work by him is a living, expressive Pulcinella who expresses himself without speaking. Michele’s ceramic horns have been originals since their conception. They curve softly featuring a stitching made with natural rope. Made in various sizes, even 80, 90 centimetres, they are in great demand precisely because of the characteristic stitching and their meaning.

Michele’s horn is important object that does not represent the classic fatalistic horn as it has in itself a continuity that everyone loves and that everyone wishes to have in their home. Like the nativity scene, his stitched up horn contains both the sacred and the profane. The profane for its superstitious nature and the sacred for the noble meaning that Michele has attributed to it through his characteristics.

Do you want to know why they are stitched up?

Let’s start from the beginning. As the Neapolitan tradition wants, to bring good luck the horn must be given as a gift. When it breaks accidentally, luck will spread. These horns, on the other hand, are already conceived as a lucky charm, therefore they give off good luck since the beginning and there is no need to wait for them to accidentally break.

In fact, as Michele explained to us in last Christmas’ edition, his Pulcinella doesn’t wait for luck to arrive. He himself is the architect of his destiny and relies on his own strength, so with the natural rope he carefully mends the pieces of the broken horn.

Michele is also a theater actor. In addition to his performances as an official figure of Pulcinella, he also collaborates with various theater companies. Recently, the representation entitled “Mettimmece d’accordo e ce vattimme” that literally means let’s agree and fight, directed by Peppe Ruotolo, with the Liberi Geniattori theater troupe, at the Italia theater in Acerra, has enjoyed such success with two evenings, both sold out that it received invitations from illustrious Neapolitan theaters such as the Troisi Theater and the prestigious Sannazaro Theater.

Photo©Paul Key

As the official Pulcinella of the museum dedicated to the Neapolitan mask, through monologues, jokes and jokes he accompanies the children during their visit to the museum. He tells the story of Pulcinella’s life, he shares the history and tradition of our lands and guides them to discover art by describing the works on display. In the castle of the Counts, where the museum is located, as usual, the seventh edition of the Pulcinella FilmFest will be hosted again this year. An international film and cultural event dedicated to comedy in the birthplace of the famous character from the commedia dell’arte. From December 12th to December 18th 2022 there will be film screenings, art exhibitions, photography exhibitions, virtual visits, debates with the participation of artists from all over the world. The museum will be open to the public. Don’t miss the opportunity to visit it.

On the last day of the Film Festival, Sunday December 18th , the party will continue with two weeks dedicated to art and artisanship: L’Artigiano in Piazza (Artisan in the square), an event that will see the relocation of Michele’s workshop to the square, where, together with his students, he will show the public the activities they do in the laboratory. The event will last until December 31st and will be open to everyone.

As you can see Michele is a versatile artist with a great passion and a deep love for his land. You can get to know him as an actor at the Acerra theater or museum as Pulcinella or at the Artigiani in piazza event during this Christmas season.

But you can also buy one of his masterpieces which are full of Neapolitan energy and which you will find at Anime di Terracotta.

FCBK/animediterracotta