Polychrome wood wagons have been a major feature in popular Sicilian art, as well as a symbol of the island’s identity, from the 19th century to the present day. Primarily used to transport produce (fruits and vegetables), manure and charcoal, these richly decorated carts went beyond their purely functional use to participate in neighbourhood patron saints’ festivals. In Palermo, this type of decorated cart was also used during the palio festival. From the beginning of the 20th century, tourist images made them an emblematic part of Sicilian heritage.
Whether a subject of pride or a symbol of social prestige, these carts were painted by specialized craftsmen who adorned them with geometric or floral patterns, or with narrative scenes inspired by oral or written, religious or historical literature. This beautiful example, for example, is decorated on all sides with motifs depicting the battle between the Moors and the Christians. The repertory of the portrayed scenes refers to the great writings of the Italian Renaissance: Jerusalem Delivered by Tasso, The Frenzy of Orlando by Ariosto and Orlando in Love by Boiardo.