Oct.21, 2011 - Addendum
I have come across an article discussing these carts and donkeys that offers an interesting insight. According to the author, Tiziana, of "Thats Arte.Com" she refers to these collectibles as "Ciucci". Tiziana lives in Italy and speaks Italian. I live in the U.S.A. and I don't speak Italian so I must defer to her. My problem with that label is that according to Italian-English dictionaries Ciucci is the plural for baby pacifiers. When I do an internet search for Ciucci the only images that appear are indeed baby pacifiers. I will leave it to the reader to decide what to call these. I have included a link to her article.
What I found of particular interest in the article was the naming of the original creator of these ceramic donkeys and their carts as Richard Doelker, a German artist who lived and worked in Vietri Sul Mar from 1927 until 1933.
http://www.thatsarte.com/blog/highlight ... ttery-art/
Modified October 21, 2011
The donkey still has relevant importance throughout mountainous landscape of Southern Italy and Sicily. He can go where even the most modern four-wheel drive vehicles cannot. This important beast of burden was introduced into the area by the ancient Greek colonists beginning about 800 years before the birth of Christ and the descendants of those Greek donkeys often travel the same narrow trails up and down rocky hills and mountains that the colonists did.
There are two forms of ceramic figurines found on the market. The most popular and easiest to collect is the donkey and cart (carrettos). They are symbolic of the carts used in Sicily and Southern Italy. They are called Carretto Siciliano in Italian or Carrettu Sicilianu in Sicilian. The real ones are considered an art form and there is a museum devoted to them in Palermo. There are essentially two types of carts; those used for work,"Carretto del Lavoro" and those created for festivals, parades and weddings, "Carretto de Gara". The second type of ceramic donkey is depicted with baskets that hang down its sides . They are commonly called Ciuccio, which literally translates as "pacifier". In real life these little equines go where even the carrettos dare not.
Ceramic examples of the little carrettos and Ciuccio are sold all over Sicily and Southern Italy as souvenirs. They have been popular collectibles since the 1920's when Richard Doelker began making his clay models. Most of these examples are produced in molds and painted by hand in small, family-owned potteries and generally sell to tourists for only a few dollars, however, some examples are completely made by hand and can be quite beautiful and very expensive.
The most desirable pieces are those that were hand made from the 1920's through the 1940's . These examples were made by such famous artists as Guido Gambone, Richard Doelker, Barbara Hannasch and Irene Kowalski. These bear the names of such famous potteries as ICS, MACS, Fontana Limite, etc. Examples signed by these artists or bearing the pottery's name can cost several hundred dollars or more.
For almost a hundred years these figurines have served as planters, cut flower containers, nut dishes, spare change receptacles and any number of other creative uses. There are many collectors here and in Europe and I am told that collecting these charismatic donkeys is quite addictive.
Walter Del Pellegrino