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Art Behind the Scenes Curatorial

The Neapolitan Crèche: A Holiday Tradition

Although this year we cannot gather at the Museum to see the Neapolitan crèche in the European galleries, it is still possible to appreciate the joy this special tableau brings.

Woman holding a baby surrounded by people, angels, and goats
Naples, Italy, “Nativity Scene (Crèche)”, mid-18th century. Polychromed terracotta, painted wood, and fabric, on a later support. Dimensions variable. Gift of Loretta Howard Sturgis, M2006.9.1-.20. Photo by John R. Glembin.

Although this year we cannot gather at the Museum to see the Neapolitan crèche in the European galleries, an annual tradition for many, it is still possible to appreciate the joy this special tableau brings.

These engaging figures, each the work of a talented sculptor, are arranged in order to communicate the Christian story of the birth of Christ. In this video, I explain the origins and history of the crèche tradition, as well as the particularly wonderful story of the Museum’s group of crèche figures and the generous donor who gifted them to the collection.

For more about the crèche, read Catherine Sawinski’s post “Neapolitan Crèche” and Rick Knight’s “Crèche Redux: A Storyboard.”

Tanya Paul is the Isabel and Alfred Bader Curator of European Art. She oversees the research, exhibition, and acquisition of European art at the Museum, primarily focusing on material from the fourteenth century through the early twentieth century.

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