If you’ve seen the second season of HBO’s White Lotus, you’ve seen the "Testa di Moro," a colorfully painted ceramic head that takes center stage in the show.
We have our own purveyor of the ceramic heads right here in San Francisco—the legacy business Biordi Art Imports—and the art pieces have been flying off the shelves.
It’s all due to the buzzworthiness of the show—and the power of local journalism. Stuart Schuffman, aka Broke-Ass Stuart, first reported on the sculptural heads, intensifying the mad dash to procure one.
“We had to start a waiting list,” said Branden Smith, son-in-law of shop owner Deborah Baldini. “It was four pages long.”
The shop, in business since 1946 on Columbus Avenue in North Beach, ordered two crates of the Moorish heads and has already sold through one-and-a-half of them.
“We’ve carried these heads for years. They’re very traditional,” Smith said. “But they’ve never sold like this before.
“It’s all because of White Lotus,” he added. “And the article.”
The art pieces stem from a legend nine centuries old in which a young woman falls in love with a Moorish man whom she meets while watering her garden. The young woman then discovers the man is already married—and cuts his head off as a sign of true love, planting flowers in the skull that she now gets to keep forever.
The buying has intensified and also shifted. While Smith said that before the female heads were the first to go, the White Lotus-fueled surge has seen the men flying off the shelves.
“Interest in the male heads has definitely spiked,” Smith said, noting that shoppers come in to buy them as tongue-in-cheek wedding, birthday and new parent gifts.
Prices on the hand-painted, objectively beautiful heads—all made by the Sicilian artisans Vincenzo and Giuseppe Schittone—range from $80 for the mini size in a solid color to $3,300 for a custom order that takes up nearly half of the storefront’s window.
“That one’s a special order for a celebrity customer,” Smith said. “It’s a name I can’t disclose.”
The most popular design? That’s a gold-and-iridescent one with ethereal, shimmering colors. But if you want one, you better act fast—there’s only one left, a female, of the $280 heads.
While Smith assumed the miniature heads would be the most popular size, he said it’s the medium $1,250 heads that are selling the most briskly overall.
But the shop’s original cult object? That would be the Etruscan chicken cooker. They don’t sell so many of those anymore.
“That’s a special order item only, these days,” Smith said.
Julie Zigoris can be reached at [email protected]