only one place in the world where you can breathe the atmosphere of an ancient Christmas, as it was experienced by our ancestors, in a setting that offers glimpses of landscapes etched in memory.
the Eighteenth Century
between faith and culture
This place is Naples on December 25th, the day on which Saint Gregorio Armeno and the whole historic center become the eighteenth century stage of the greatest event of Christianity, the birth of Christ, which moves from the Middle East to be set entirely nestled in a town on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea.
It becomes an incomparable scenario for the 18th century Neapolitan Nativity Scene. On a background made of mossy green hills, in the shadow of the Vesuvius Volcano, there are mystical characters, tricorn and zimarra bon viveurs, peasants and tarantella dancers. And in this fascinating scenario there are the Holy Family, the ox and the donkey, the Neapolitan shepherds and the Three Wise Men, welcomed in the riot of a crowd gathered to celebrate the sacred event.
Nobles, beggars, peasants dressed up, Moors and characters from the world known then.
When I make the Neapolitan Nativity Scene, I want it to become a work of art and an expression of the beauty testified by its long history that has its roots in the representations set by Saint Francis of Assisi, during which, with the participation of local humble people the Advent was put into scene, relived in body and soul. ↴
Later, nativity scenes with wooden figures began to be installed in churches among the faithful. Only later, in the beginning of the 18th century, the shepherds object of worship became part of the houses of patrons who competed for the most beautiful statuettes, made most of the times by great artists of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.
It is in this context that the Neapolitan nativity scene is presented, one of the most important European artistic creations between Baroque and Rococo, a portrait of a solar city where the crowd becomes a landscape, a town populated by people who can only be found in ancient paintings or in accurate descriptions in the books that tell our past.
Forgotten characters, but who have existed and are part of History.
Over time, from a cult object the Nartivity Scene becomes a collector item, until it becomes the absolute protagonist in the “Christmas in the Cupiello house”, one of Eduardo de Filippo’s most loved comedies. Isn’t this the most fascinating aspect of the Neapolitan nativity scene? Its characters are like actors on a large stage, each plays his own role, as in a real play, against the backdrop of a cosmopolitan Naples, capital of a kingdom and at the same time one of the most important ports of the Mediterranean, a melting pot of races, characters of every color and social backgrounds from all over the “basin”.
I like to think of a Naples open welcoming all ethnic groups, a Naples that has seen and continues to see in diversity a precious source of wealth.
make the scene come alive: the finishings of the face, the heads modeled in terracotta with the eyes in blown and painted glass, the limbs in polychrome wood, the manequin in iron and tow, the clothes skillfully reproduced in a style faithful to that of that period, in embroidered silk for the noble characters, in cotton and linen finished by hand for the people, the animal production, the wooden or metal accessories, the baskets of fruit and vegetables, various utensils. A richness of details capable of creating a festive atmosphere with an ancient flavor.