Not on view

The practice of using crèche figures to restage religious events reached the height of its complexity and artistic excellence in eighteenth-century Naples, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s group of Neapolitan crèche is one of the finest and most complete survivals of the art form. The ensemble consists of characters traditional to eighteenth-century Italian Christmas holiday customs. The Nativity, featuring the holy family, shepherds and their flocks, and a host of angels and cherubs is joined by the procession of the three Magi, townspeople, colorful peasants, individuals from the Mediterranean shores, and animals. The figures have articulated bodies of tow and wire with polychromed terracotta heads, and are all in partially distressed condition.

These vibrant characters are further brought to life by a wide-ranging set of cloth, embroidery, leather, wicker, wax, and silver accessories. Many of these, such as the figures’ luxurious costumes, baskets of fruit, and gilt censers are original, and represent forms traditional to the rural areas around Naples during this period.

Mary, Mixed media, Italian

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