fileteado porteño is a popular decorative art born in
the beginnings of the 20th century in the city of Buenos
Its origins can be found in the cart factories where the
craft pioneers actually created it while making the
carts' ornamentation. Unfortunately we have very poor
documentation about the fileteado's history.
As it happens with the tango,
there is neither a first artist nor an exact date
allowing to establish its exact beginnings. Anyhow
all the testimonies agree in mentioning three Italian
immigrants as its creators : Cecilio Pascarella, Vicente
Brunetti and Salvador Venturo. Each one of them
with his own characteristics, developed the fileteado at
the same time, working with the different types of
carriages available at the start of the century. The
first followers of these pioneers were their own
Buenos Aires the carts' fileteada decoration began to
use a color contrast style. The grey color of the
city would be contrasted with bright colors on the sides
of the carts.
The next step was separating these two colors by means
of a thin line of a more intense or contrasting hue.
And this was the starting point for the different motifs
forming later the wide repertoire that, as well as the
technique and the composition, will be characteristic of
this unmistakable art. Flowers, scrolls, acanthus'
leaves, ribbons with the Argentine colors, little
balls, straight and curved lines of different
thickness are richly combined with rural scenes and
popular characters such as the Holy Virgin and Carlos
colors are very bright and by means of contrasts and
transparencies the composition gets volumetric
appearance. The painting used for the fileteado is just
synthetic enamel, very suitable for outdoors and
resistant to the passage of time. These characteristics
allow the fileteado art to be constantly on the city
The fileteado compositions include texts taken from the
very rich collection of proverbs dictated by popular
wisdom and by the guild. These texts are its "voice",
mentioned once by Jorge Luis Borges as costados
sentenciosos ( "sententious sides" ).
Its presence is so familiar that
the fileteado will be thought as an art only when it
begins to disappear.
The successive economic crises, the fashions that begin
shyly to "globalize" and even a national law ( that
forbids fileteado paintings on the buses!! ) in the 70'
cause, inevitably, the dissolution of this traditional
The golden years of the great fileteado masters and
their unforgettable, profusely decorated carriages
is over, but the fileteado porteño goes on living thanks
to a few men, who have come to its rescue from
indifference and forgetfulness. They practice it (
perhaps more shyly, in a different context and on
different surfaces ) as an art and craft that always
provides the playful pleasure inherent to ornamentation.
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