The hand of the master beats slow, need, rhythmically lilting, to give shape and substance to one of the most precious metals: It is the liturgy of the sound of the old coppersmiths, that still is repeated in the laboratory of Luigi Pitzalis, a Isili, in Sardegna. In this country of Sarcidano, one of the areas of production of wheat Senator Hats, excellent seadas, to know with potatoes and elegant fabrics, it still preserves the art of processing of copper. In artisan family workshop, Luigi and his two sons, Andrea and Paul, proudly carry on a trade that in the last forty years has been slowly disappearing. In 1973, In fact, Isili was the capital of the copper in Sardinia, with about fifty craftsmen at work and a flourishing economy made up of producers, distributors and sellers of copper supplied the entire island and not just, since that would go up in Corsica and to the Italian Continent. Today, in 2019, It remained only the Pitzalis family to carry out this job. And this is the reason that prompted us to knock on the door to tell Luigi master through this video the work of the coppersmith, a job that has centuries of history behind it but today is extraordinarily capable of surprising modernity.
The idea to explore the theme of the copper processing it came after a visit to Marate, The Copper Museum and the fabric of Isili. We were impressed by the beauty, the richness and elegance of the creations on display in, which also host wonderful Sardinian fabrics made with hand looms, Yesterday and today. Through everyday objects, as pans, pots, kitchen tools, the museum tells the story of an entire community and its traditions. Whole families lived around the Copper economy. Is’ It was a particular object to arouse our interest: the dish of the hunt (Case of de Prata, in Sardinian language), a tinned copper object that could be traced back to the Renaissance period and that still survives thanks to the hand of the master Pitzalis. In realizing this object, used in some restaurants in Sardinia (for example in Oliena) and even in the homes of many private citizens, master Luigi Pitzalis leads us with his story on a journey back in time, when the forges were simmering in the heat of the fire and the noise of the hammer pounding the copper disc was everywhere, an echo continues to spread throughout Isili.
Copper Art and fabric, just to Isili, They had found an extraordinary and fertile marriage: and both trades, today, strongholds are defended by very few, that continue, to the frame and in the forge, to carry forward the tradition that made great Isili. And if the fabrics today have become works of art to the museum or reserved unique pieces a few fans, the copper art is perhaps a bit left today’ more connected to everyday life: compared to the past, there is certainly less demand for pots, Pans, cake pans, planters. But the objects of art are appreciated: appliques, chandeliers, cantilevered paintings, ornamental objects, sacred objects for churches. Especially in Sardinia and in the regions where sheep farming and the art of making cheese is still widespread, There is also a strong demand for calderas in copper and copper tools to make cheese. But there is also the need to do maintenance to the existing calderas, which periodically must be coated with tin by expert hands. Gone are the days in which, in every house, Kit of future brides included valuable copper pots. And they are just as gone are the days when people traveled to Corsica to sell items and tin kettles shepherds, and where mutual competition was very strong.
Luigi Pitzalis is son and grandson of artisans copper, but to call it a coppersmith is reductive: He is an expert in the history of copper and this job, and not only with regard to Sardinia. It has an almost philological interest for the old tools, for the origin of things. Through his memories and his cart under the cover of woven reeds housed in the courtyard are still unable to imagine the grandfather who traveled from fair to fair selling its copper objects, requested the Island but also on the Continent. Today things have changed. in Corsica, the last of the copper craftsman died in 1995. In Italy, places of copper processing are shrinking more and more, from Trentino to Canavese (Piedmont), passing some little masters operating in areas of Lucca and Pistoia, in Tuscany, where the production and processing of copper has almost disappeared. In the province of Naples, in Sant'Anastasia, remain active even some historic companies as well as in some town in the Lazio, Abruzzo and Molise. The coppersmith is a difficult job, you learn as a child. Apprenticeship of a coppersmith lasts two years, but it takes at least five to be able to fabricate an entirely hand-piece, this is a good level.
The dish of the hunt ("su prattu de cassa") It has become, in a sense, the symbol of Louis working Pitzalis, who wanted to recover this item going to reconstruct its history, which will be the subject of a book. Back in the eighties, at a trade show in Sassari, Pitzalis the teacher knew a citizen who showed him the pot of hunting made of tin, but I am saying that it was originally made of copper. This was the driving force that pushed the master to play Pitzalis copper this elegant dish, It consists of two almost identical containers that fit perfectly. The history of this dish is ancient: finds, similar forms (with or without handle), in some Venetian paintings in 1500. In ancient times it was used to cook the meat on the fire, almost like a pressure cooker before its time. Every year, Luigi Pitzalis produces about 50 plates of this type, in three different sizes. The measure media, you see in the video, It costs 180 euro if the pot is made entirely by hand. Instead, It costs 120 euro if made with a lathe. The raw material costs are high. To give just a few examples: copper costs 15 euro per kilogram and a plate of average size requires nearly two pounds of copper. While it costs 35 euro per kilo tin and tin an average size tool will need 200 grams. The labor, the experience and the patience of the master do the rest of the price. But you should know that copper is a renewable metal over time and that the work of a master coppersmith makes it a complex and unique tool, that lasts forever.
To build the pot hunting (Case of de Prata), Pitzalis the master part from semifinished copper foil, which now arrives in the laboratory in the form of rectangular or round lamina. The teacher delivers the sheet with a completely hand hammer, in a series of repeated steps and lenses. There is a coppersmith position liturgy: sitting on a wooden stool, legs supported by dowels, in a balance that seems acrobatic. The position of the legs determines the exact point where the hammer going to beat. And there is a definite liturgy also Sound: the hammer (of metal or wood) that beats and replies the lamina, hour to harden, Now to decorate, Now to make it uniform. Is’ a musical and harmonic sound, like that of a sacred music. To the rhythm of the hammer you can also improvise a dance.
The copper processing requires a lot of patience: during the beating, the lamina is compressed and hardens. To be able to work at its best, you have to warm up again to about 500-600 degrees. After the third processing, which gives the final shape to the workpiece, the teacher proceeds to tap it again, so as to harden it and then be able to apply the circle in galvanized iron plate that will make it hard, helping to maintain the shape. In the final, the master Luigi Pitzals hammering the whole surface of the plate, both to give hardness and structure of the object, both for aesthetic reasons, decorating with the uniform look. Then comes the most difficult stage, the coupling: the two plates, In fact, They must match perfectly and close, hermetically. All the preparatory work is done by hand by beating the individual elements, separately. The two dishes are lead to definitive measure only after the tinning, when the extension of the tools become shiny as a mirror, such as liquid silver.
USES IN THE KITCHEN. The hunting dish (Case of de Prata) It is divided into two halves and has several uses in the kitchen. We have personally experienced some recipes of the Sardinian tradition, using this copper object for the first time. First of all, both dishes that compose it can be used as a pan, Oil corpargendo the bottom and using them to skip foods, sauté and fry. The appearance of de Prata cash (the dish of the hunt) It is similar to that of a Chinese wok, because of the rounded bottom. Then, the only care is to use a reducer for wok resting on the stove, so that the pan does not rock. When you have browned food, in my case a lamb with potatoes and artichokes and stewed eel, you need to cover with the other half of the pot. The closure, practically hermetic, makes sure that in the presence of a liquid, it creates steam: foods cook faster, the flavors are not diluted and meat, For example,, remain softer. The processing of copper can and must win the challenge with modernity, the ambitious artisans Pitzalis know how to keep the tradition and innovate, They know how to remember and look ahead.