Displayed annually during Christmas time, the Art Institute’s Neapolitan crèche includes more than 200 figures—some of whose components were carved and assembled in the 18th century. In keeping with Naples tradition, the scene transposes the birth of Jesus from first-century Bethlehem to 18th-century Naples.
In this lecture, educator Jeff Nigro guides you through the complex diorama, which includes not only the Holy Family but angels, the Three Wise Men, shepherds and their flocks, livestock, musicians, dancers, peddlers, and many others. You’ll learn why the crèche is such a spectacular expression of the Baroque period, how it engages with popular piety, and emphasizes expressive emotion, dynamic movement, and exuberant theatricality typical of the time.
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