Nativity scene, Naples, second half of the 19th century

Naples, second half of the 19th century


Nativity scene with the Holy Family in a cave, surrounded by the common faithful led by the angel who gave them the announcement, located in the upper part. The figures have hands and faces in terracotta painted in polychrome and are dressed in cloth clothes; the cave is made of papier-mâché, glued to the painted background, and is finished with straw and wood details.

Placed within a mahogany cabinet supported by turned and ebonized feet, the uprights are made up of columns, also ebonized, with Corinthian capitals in gilded bronze, supporting the upper entablature, decorated with vase-shaped elements. The front and sides have glass, to allow them to be used as a display case. Access to the interior is done by removing the upper part.

Dimensions: 85 x 118,5 x 52 cm ( 33,4 x 46,6 x 20,5 in )


Historical-critical analysis:

The nativity scene belongs to the Neapolitan production of the mid-19th century, as clearly denoted by the reliquary in late Empire style that contains it. The tradition of nativity scenes in the Neapolitan city saw its most successful moment in the eighteenth century, when their commission was no longer exclusively on the part of churches and religious orders, but also the rich and the nobles began to request their realization. Thus it was that the cribs began to spread also in the secular field, becoming real scenographic apparatuses more and more complex and adapted to different needs.

Among the most important are certainly those exhibited at the Museum of the Certosa di San Martino, including the famous Cucciniello nativity scene (1887-1889). As is well known, the Neapolitan nativity scene tradition is still quite widespread today, with numerous artisans and shops specialized in the creation of statuettes, grouped in the central Via di San Gregorio Armeno.

In our case, the entire scene of the adoration of the shepherds is grouped in a small space, in order to be placed inside the case, to be placed on a console or a sideboard.

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