Thursday, December 24, 2015

The plastic Nativity scenes we know today go back to the Middle Ages

By Konstantina Karterouli
"Nativity" Presepe Cuciniello, Museo di San Martino, Napoli, Wikimedia Commons
The plastic Nativity scenes most of us are familiar with today—brought out on church lawns and domestic mantelpieces around Christmas—derive only in part from this iconographic tradition. In fact, they ultimately go back to the late Middle Ages, when they were used in religious plays. Drawing on these, the famous presepi (“cribs,” in Italian) of 18th-century Naples were elaborate, stage-like settings containing numerous figurines, typically made from terracotta, combining street scenes, costumes, and landscapes that provided realistic and lively depictions of Neapolitan life. [link]