The First Art Newspaper on the Net   Established in 1996 United States Thursday, June 21, 2018

Pope inspires nativity scene art in Naples
A picture shows crib figurines at the Cantone & Costabile shop Via San Gregorio Armeno, a narrow street often called the street of nativity workshops or Christmas Alley on December 9, 2013 in Naples. The artisan workshops sell nativity scenes (presepi in Italian) and terra cotta Christmas figurines and souvenirs, ranging from very high quality to inexpensive. The firm Cantone & Costabile are charged to make the traditional Christmas crib in St. Peter Square in Vatican City.AFP PHOTO / CARLO HERMANN.

NAPLES (AFP).- Nativity scene artisans in Italy have taken Pope Francis's social message to heart this Christmas, giving a bigger role to ordinary people in their work and reviving the tradition's simple origins.

Statuettes of disgraced former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi are less and less popular at the bustling San Gregorio Armeno market in Naples, where the new pope is now all the rage.

"It's about simplicity," said Antonio Cantone, one of the city's most prestigious artists, who sells fine statuettes in the ramshackle courtyard of a 16th-century palazzo near the market.

Cantone has been commissioned to make the giant nativity scene that will be unveiled on St Peter's Square at the Vatican on Christmas Eve this year -- the first Neapolitan artist to have the honour.

"I have based the scene on the message of Pope Francis," he said, adding that it will feature prominently a pauper dressed in rags and a peasant and shepherd bearing humble gifts.

"There are no noblemen, except for the Three Kings," Cantone said, adding: "The first to arrive when Jesus was born were ordinary people, that is the core of the message I wanted."

Elaborate nativity scenes began in Naples churches in the 18th century to make religious teachings more accessible by including snapshots of daily life that people could relate to.

The custom was then adopted by the aristocracy and spread to ordinary people, becoming a yearly and much-loved tradition for millions of Italians.

The most traditional statuettes are painstakingly handcrafted out of terracotta, given glass eyes and painted -- each one a unique work of folk art.

Pope: 'you made me look thinner'
"Nativity scenes are a serious thing. They can transmit a message," said Cantone, adding that many popular additions -- like a tavern setting -- were intended as a warning against the perils of sin.

More recently, some artists have begun crafting more unorthodox statuettes -- from football legend Diego Maradona to famous tenor Luciano Pavarotti -- in a bid to raise their profile.

But Cantone, who started out as an art restorer and took up making nativity figures later in life, has a more academic approach to the craft.

He said his inspiration for the Vatican nativity came from the oldest, purest historical tradition "with no contamination, no excesses".

Shoppers thronging the tiny street of San Gregorio Armeno, which is visited by tens of thousands of people a day in the Christmas season, echoed the idea of going back to basics.

"I like the classic nativity scene... No Berlusconi, no!" said Bianca, a pensioner out shopping with her husband for a nativity scene for their son, who has had to leave Naples because of the city's rampant economic crisis.

"The tradition had fallen away but now it's back in fashion," she said.

Following multiple sex scandals and trials and his eviction from the Italian parliament last month, Berlusconi is very much out of favour at San Gregorio Armeno, but the statuettes of Pope Francis are selling like hot cakes.

Artisan Genny Di Virgilio, whose family has been in the business since 1830, said the pope is his top seller but noted that "current affairs statuettes" should not be confused with the traditional nativity, which he said would be a "blasphemy".

Demand is so high for the pope that Di Virgilio cannot make the terracotta figures fast enough.

"Yesterday I had 80 of them and I sold them all by 11 in the morning! I had one guy from Florence who bought the raw terracotta model and took it just like that, unpainted!" Di Virgilio said.

The artist met with the pope during a general audience and handed him a statue of himself.

"You made this? Good, good, you made me look thinner!" Di Virgilio said the pope told him.

The pope's statue was "definitely" more popular than that of his predecessor, Benedict XVI, because "all the generations like him," Di Virgilio said.

Giorgio Sannino, 26, out Christmas shopping with his girlfriend, is one fan.

"We have to get one! We like this pope a lot because he is close to people.

"I think it is an important statue to have for any self-respecting family."

© 1994-2013 Agence France-Presse

Today's News

December 12, 2013

The Cinquantenaire Museum presents "Henry van de Velde: Passion, Function, Beauty"

Two Damien Hirst artworks stolen from the Exhibitionist Gallery in west London

Marc Chagall work in German art trove was Nazi-looted: reports German tabloid Bild

Native American masks sold in Paris to be returned to tribes by The Annenberg Foundation

1958 Ferrari 250 GT LWB California Spider stars at RM's 15th Annual Arizona Sale

Sotheby's New York announces Annual Important Judaica Sale to be held on 17 December

Senegalese sculptor Ousmane Sow dedicates French honour to Nelson Mandela

Akron Art Museum Senior Curator named Executive Director of Maltz Museum

Record prices for Abstract and Modern British masterpieces at Sotheby's London

National Portrait Gallery acquires bust of celebrated actress Margaret Rawlings

Domestic Concerns: Nicole Cohen's first solo exhibition with Morgan Lehman Gallery opens

More than 2,200 world and ancient coins ready for Heritage's NYINC Auction, at The Waldorf Astoria

Syrian artist Tammam Azzam's first United Kingdom solo exhibition opens at Ayyam Gallery

Two hundred year old Imperial Chinese robe makes £15,000

Shortlist announced for emerging Asian artist award

Astounding prices on fine art, decoratives and fine furnishings, asian, and jewelry at Clars sale

Historic New England protects one of the country's most significant ecclesiastical buildings

Exhibition explores the question, "what does it mean to be an American today?"

Relative Unknowns: Solo exhibition by Danielle Durchslag opens at Denny Gallery

Pope inspires nativity scene art in Naples

Most Popular Last Seven Days

1.- Porsche Super Speedster offered for first time in 50 years at RM Sotheby's Porsche 70th Anniversary Auction

2.- Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens opens 'Storytelling: French Art from the Horvitz Collection'

3.- Gauguin: Voyage to Tahiti stars Vincent Cassel as the famed French artist

4.- Stunning colored diamonds expected to dazzle at Heritage Auctions' Summer Fine Jewelry Auction

5.- US designer Kate Spade found dead at 55

6.- Vincent Van Gogh painting sells for over 7 million euros: Artcurial auction house

7.- Sir Stanley Spencer painting discovered hidden under a bed during a drugs raid

8.- Oxford's Bodleian Libraries unveil UK's first major Tolkien exhibition in decades

9.- Major exhibition at the Guggenheim explores decades of work by Alberto Giacometti

10.- World's largest freshwater pearl goes for 320,000 euros

Museums, Exhibits, Artists, Milestones, Digital Art, Architecture, Photography,
Photographers, Special Photos, Special Reports, Featured Stories, Auctions, Art Fairs,
Anecdotes, Art Quiz, Education, Mythology, 3D Images, Last Week, .


Ignacio Villarreal
Editor & Publisher:Jose Villarreal - Consultant: Ignacio Villarreal Jr.
Art Director: Juan José Sepúlveda Ramírez

Royalville Communications, Inc
Founder's Site. The most varied versions
of this beautiful prayer.
to a Mexican poet.

The First Art Newspaper on the Net. The Best Versions Of Ave Maria Song Junco de la Vega Site Ignacio Villarreal Site
Tell a Friend
Dear User, please complete the form below in order to recommend the Artdaily newsletter to someone you know.
Please complete all fields marked *.
Sending Mail
Sending Successful