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Papier-mâché in Puglia

Well-known for its Baroque style, the city of Lecce, in Puglia, is also famous for the papier-mâché art (cartapesta in Italian).

So, what is Papier-mâché? Papier-mâché is a malleable mixture of paper and glue, which becomes hard when dry and can be painted and adorned.

History of the Papier- mache


papier-mache-arialuxuryapuliaThis particular genre of art has become popular since 17th century in Puglia. In those times the development of art was closely connected with the religion.

That’s why so many papier-mâché masterpieces are displayed in numerous churches of Puglia and all around the world. For example, the Church of Santa Chiara in Lecce is remarkable for the papier-mâché decorations of its ceiling.


Photo: courtesy of Claudio Riso, papier-mâché craftsman in Lecce

Visiting the Museo della Cartapesta while on holiday in Puglia


papier-mache-figuresWondering around Lecce, in the south of Puglia, it’s common to chance upon several papier-mâché workshops showing their ready to sell statues and puppets or working on upcoming pieces of art.

It’s also possible to take a papier-mâché class in several artisan studios and learn the elaborate but satisfactory process of creating papier-mâché handmade works.

Only a few minutes’ walk from the central square of Lecce, Piazza Sant’Oronzo, the Castle of Charles V is home to the papier-mâché museum (Museo della Cartapesta).

Apart from the exhibition of the papier-mâché handicrafts, the museum displays the history of the most famous ‘cartapesta’ artists.

Types of papier-mache


papier-mache-puglia-risoThe traditional papier-mâché handicrafts of Puglia can have different size: from enormous statues and monuments to small figurines and puppets.
Also the theme differs: everyday life of 18th-century in Lecce, detailed clothing of peasants, religious monuments and statues, busts, icons, crucifixes, figures of saints, masks, angels, dolls and even toys.

An interesting and fascinating event where to see a parade of giant papier-mâché masks and structures takes place in the town of Massafra, in the province of Taranto. It is a carnival, Carnevale di Massafra, which begins from January 17 and is celebrated each Thursday and Sunday until the day before Lent begins.

Are you interested in learning more about this ancient art? Do you want to visit a papier-mâché studio? Are you keen to roll up your sleeves and take a papier-mâché workshop? We can help! Contact us via phone +44 (0)203 002 0270 or email info@ariajourneys.com. We will help you organise your papier-mâché visit or laboratory when on holidays in Puglia.

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