Renato Guttuso was born on 26 December 1911 at Bagheria in the Province of Palermo in Sicily. He discovered painting in his childhood as his father was an amateur painter. When he was only thirteen, he began signing and dating his work, mainly copies of Sicilian landscapes and his own portraits. Soon he started frequenting studios of local painters gradually joining the artistic milieu in Palermo. To earn his living, Guttuso initially worked as a picture restorer in art galleries and contributed to newspapers and periodicals. Gradually he started having exhibitions of his own work, in Milan and Rome. A very important period in Guttuso’s life were the years 1937 – 39, when he settled permanently in Rome and his studios became stimulating centres of the cultural milieu in Rome. Since this time Guttuso produced a number of outstanding works. He died on 18 January 1987, having left his major works to art galleries in Rome and his native town of Bagheria, where the Museo Guttuso owns the largest collection of his paintings, drawings and graphics.
La Vucciria (1974) oil on canvas
It is perhaps the most famous painting from Palermo, depicting a lively market, La Vucciria. Interestingly, the market was visited by Guttuso when he moved to Palermo as a student, but it was painted by him only later on when he was living in a distant place in Lombardy. The picture is a fleshy realism grasping the essence of the feeling you might have while exploring a thriving Sicilian market. Amaze at the carnival of foods (sic! carne – carnival) and see how the human bodies nicely melt into the environment.
Common ingredients of the time
Too many to list, Sicilian cuisine has Italian, Greek, Spanish, French and Arab influences just to mention its main origins and, as depicted in La Vucciria, abounds in various foods. What follows is a recipe for one of the typical dishes.
Recipe: Lamb with Potatoes & Onions
- 11 pieces of fresh lamb
- 5 large red potatoes…peeled and cut in 6 pieces… the long way
- 2 onions sliced
- 1/3 cup of homemade red sauce
- 1-2 cans of chicken broth (14.5 oz cans)
- 1/2 tablespoon of oregano
- Season with salt & pepper
- Pan to cook lamb in
- Aluminum foil
- Place the 11 pieces of lamb in the pan
- Add the potatoes and the onions and one can of chicken broth over the above (second can…can be used if it starts to dry up add more…. a little at a time)
- Add 1/3 cup of homemade red sauce over the lamb, potatoes & onions
- Add the 1/2 tablespoon of Oregano over the lamb and potatoes & onions
- Season with some salt & pepper
- Cover pan with Aluminum foil
- Place pan in oven
- Pre-heat and cook at 400 every 15-20 minutes check the lamb and turn it over….do this a couple of times while cooking.
- When it’s almost cooked take off the aluminum foil and let the lamb and potatoes get some color.
(based on Cooking with Nonna – Sicilian Recipes)