Mallorcan Siurells, Much More Than Ceramic Pieces
A Siurell is a ceramic figurine placed on a pedestal, typically white with green and red brushstrokes, and, depending on the artisan's origin, blue and yellow.
But what sets these small pieces apart and gives them their name is the tiny whistle or flute, known as "siurell" in Mallorcan, also crafted from clay.
In Mallorca, there exists an unwritten tradition: anything with an unknown origin is attributed to the Moors, and Siurells are no exception. Nevertheless, some studies suggest that these small pieces made their way to the island through the so-called sea peoples, including Crete, Cyprus, Phoenicia, Sardinia, neighboring Ibiza, and even more remote civilizations like the Egyptian.
The resemblance of Mallorcan Siurells to figurines found in and studied from these regions leads one to believe that these small ceramic statues might have a much more ancient significance than initially assumed.
In any case, their exact origin remains a mystery, as does the moment in history when they first began to be crafted. Some believe they were ancient children's toys that survived through the centuries, while others think they held religious value. In Mallorca, they have always been associated with good luck and abundance and served as totems against the tempestuous Mallorcan winds, which struck fear into the island's early inhabitants.
The Art Behind Siurells
Traditionally, it was women who were responsible for crafting these small pieces, and in many pottery workshops, they are still the ones creating them. They used to be sold at weekly markets, and it was rare for a child to return home without a little Siurell in their hands.
To create one, artisans shape the different parts of the piece and then join them using a special, much whiter clay. They then fashion the whistle with a rounded piece of clay, hollow it with a small stick called "tronquet d'albó," and create an air inlet and outlet hole using a piece of cane, which, when blown into, produces the characteristic sound of these pieces.
The figure is left to dry and is then fired in a special kiln. Once fired, it is whitewashed to achieve the appropriate white color. During this process, the piece is immersed in lime, holding it by the whistle, so that the part that requires blowing retains the original clay color. Finally, it is painted with green and red, or blue and yellow brushstrokes, following the unique pattern of each artisan.
Siurells for Collecting or Attracting Luck
Siurells come in various shapes, including horses, oxen, shepherds, and peasant women. The iconography of Siurells has evolved so much that there are even nativity scenes made with Siurell figures that make a grand appearance every Christmas.
The most famous are the Siurells de dimonis - demons - a recurring image in Mallorcan culture, which, when transformed into these small figurines, are considered symbols of good luck and abundance when placed at the entrance of a house.
Many people have succumbed to the charm of Siurells, despite their occasionally rugged appearance. One such person was Joan Miró, who felt a strong attraction to these figures, and they influenced some fundamental aspects of his paintings.