The bread stamps are one of the historical expressions of pastoral art in the Southern Italy, in particular in the area of Matera where until the first half of the twentieth century people marked the bread before baking it in the communal ovens, so they could be recognised by the owner.
Made in hand carved wood, they represented symbols linked to the pastoral world, often with apotropaic meaning, while the mark indicated the owner’s initials or the effigy of the family.
Until the 1950s housewives used to knead the bread at home and deliver it to the boys at the local ovens, These ovens were mostly public so it became necessary to distinguish the loaves belonging to different families. For this reason the leavened dough was stamped before being baked. Shepherds were commissioned to make the stamps and they would make the stamps with the branches found while walking, they didn’t select the wood but paid a lot of attention to the functional rather than the aesthetic aspect.
The bread stamps were also used as a pledge of love, some other times they could be given to someone as a sign of respect. As they were typically pastoral objects, the main tools used to make them were the pocket knives the shepherds used for all their needs, from self-defence to woodcarving.
Today the stamps are appreciated as ornamental objects. The bread stamps made in Matera consist of an upper decorative-figurative part with sacred elements, human figures, animals or symbols, a handle connects the upper part to the base, the extremities of which are sculpted with the initials or an effigy of the head of the family. The abstract representation of Egg, Mother Hen, Tree and Millstone, refers respectively to the meanings of birth, maternal protection, growth and strength.
Made by refractory ceramic, a tactile and raw material used in bakery ovens, the collection is finished in various colours. The mark, designed to bring back the owner’s initial, completes the stamp respecting the original tradition.
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