After its widely popular debut last year, our spectacular 18th-century Neapolitan crèche returns this holiday season enhanced with newly acquired figures. One of the very few and finest examples of such a work outside of Naples, the crèche is an intricate Nativity scene that reflects the vitality and artisanship that the city is still known for. The Art Institute’s crèche features over 200 figures—including no less than 50 animals and 41 items of food and drink—all staged in a spectacular Baroque cabinet with a painted backdrop. Elaborate, complex, and wondrous, the Neapolitan crèche is a rare example of the genre and a once-in-a-lifetime acquisition for the Art Institute.
Sacred imagery reenacting the Nativity has its roots in fourth-century Rome but by the 13th and 14th centuries, in part due to its association with St. Francis of Assisi, such scenes had become a permanent feature of Neapolitan churches. During the 18th century, the period from which most of the figures of the Art Institute’s crèche date, these relatively simple tableaux underwent a transformation into highly dramatic and theatrical renderings. Traditional sacred elements of Nativity scenes—the Holy Family, wise men, angels, and shepherds—were combined with profane aspects not of Bethlehem but of contemporary Neapolitan life—rowdy tavern scenes and bustling street activities—in dazzling displays of artistic techniques. Churches, wealthy citizens, members of the nobility, and the royal family all competed to commission the most complex presentations of this popular art form from leading artists and artisans, the same people who were creating monumental sculptures and altars for churches and palaces. These artists rendered figures in oil-painted terracotta to achieve the most realistic expressions in crèches and constructed painstakingly detailed costumes of luxurious fabrics that mimicked the fashions of the time. The Art Institute’s crèche represents the pinnacle of this artistic practice, born of the centuries-old tradition of Nativity scenes yet bursting with the energy of 18th-century Neapolitan life.
Due to the fragility of the original silk costumes and exquisite embroidery, the Neapolitan crèche can only be on view for a few weeks every year. Don’t miss your chance to revel in Baroque artistry this season!
Sponsors The Art Institute of Chicago is grateful to the following individuals for their generous support of the Neapolitan crèche: The Nativity and Three Wise Men and Their Courts and Treasures sponsored by Mr. and Mrs. James N. Bay; The Heavenly Host sponsored by Linda and Vincent Buonanno and Family in memory of Vincent Buonanno Jr.; The Taverna sponsored by the Eloise W. Martin Legacy Fund; and La Georgiana and Her Companions sponsored by Mrs. Robert O. Levitt.
5 hours 4 min ago The Art Institute of Chicago #TBT The Boy Scouts check out Whistler’s Mother, on view at the Art Institute for the Chicago World’s Fair, 1933.
Whistler’s iconic painting has only been exhibited at the Art Institute on two occasions: once in 1933 and again in 1954 for the exhibition Sargent, Whistler, and Mary Cassatt. See this beloved American portrait—at the Art Institute again for the first time in over 60 years—starting March 4.
6 hours 35 min ago The Art Institute of Chicago TOMORROW—Join us for a special After Dark in the Modern Wing! Catch a performance from the legendary psychedelic pop group Os Mutantes and explore the exhibition Hélio Oiticica: To Organize Delirium—where visitors are invited to take off their shoes and walk through immersive sand-filled installations.
Use the code ADXL10 for $10 off any ticket price—http://bit.ly/2mhLXGh
9 hours 27 min ago The Art Institute of Chicago COMING SOON—Whistler’s Mother: An American Icon Returns to Chicago
Painted in 1871, the portrait better known today as “Whistler’s Mother” was intended to demonstrate the artist’s recent focus on tonal harmonies over subject matter. It came to be lauded as an icon beloved by Americans but rarely seen in the United States.
Explore Whistler’s use of family members as subjects, his abstract treatment of conventional genres such as portraiture and landscape, and the art of his professional ambition, in this focused installation of approximately 25 objects.
OPENING MARCH 4—http://bit.ly/2l3ZCze