Since its first appearance in the popular tradition, the nativity scene has had the double meaning of deep and human expression of devotion, and work of art of absolute refinement and attention to details. Although the subjects represented were for the most part common men and women, often coming from the common people, while in others they were symbols made characters, the artisans and the artists that made nativity scenes dedicated all their technical skills to create real masterpieces. Even the care for settings and scenographies has always been high and still today there are artisans who are faithful to the past ideology and are very much skilled, combining traditions and innovation, and dedicate their art to create objects and items of exquisitly manufactured and incredible scenic effects to embellish and enrich the modern nativity scenes.
For example, let’s think about the food booths placed next to the barn. The fruit booth in particular is an astonishing example of miniature art, where every single tiny detail is represented with an extraordinary realism, from the leaves of vegetables lined by veining, to the shiny and juicy grapes, to the halved citruses that seem to be just about to pour some drops of their rich juice.
Even the fish booth, handmade with wax, is a masterpiece of realistic details such as muscles, crustaceans and the single fish scales which look about to dart in their baskets.
Architecture plays a fundamental role in the creation of a nativity scene. You can choose to set your nativity in a lit village, with grotto and fountain, as it usually is in the Neapolitan tradition. It is a work of high level created entirely in Italy in Naples, by old school nativity artists. They used wood, moss and cork for a better realism. Attention to details here is impressive.
An alternative can be a beautiful Arabian setting, created with wood, moss and cork, with cupolas and arches, and all the typically Moorish architecture lines.
Again, a realistic popular setting. A peak animated by an endless, teeming life of tiny figures moving among huts and shops, and an actually working mill that seems to be watching over that animated scenario as a sentinel.