These unusual faces are the heads of Sicilian pupi (puppets) that can be seen at the Museo Opera dei Pupi in Acireale. Carved and painted with such precision, these characters can be beautiful, frightening and downright bizarre. The heads of the pupi were designed to be interchangeable (same body could be paired with different heads depending on the performance), and those seen here are exhibited without bodies. Even some special effects were involved: the one in the photo in the middle (that of a giant) was designed to split open when struck in battle by the sword of a paladino - the heros of these spectacles.
The museum features the collection of pupi that was made and used by the Pennisi-Macri' theater founded at the end of the 19th century, and I think the quality of painting and carving is among the finest I have seen (look at the beard on that fellow!). Thanks to my 3 year old pupi-obsessed son, I am starting to learn quite a bit about the world of Sicilian pupi. Even my American family has had to learn that in my son's world 'pupi' does not mean 'poopy', but we all still laugh quite a bit over that one!