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December, 20, 2010 – March, 15, 2011

the Front Hall of the Armoury Chamber

Organized by:
   the Moscow Kremlin Museums, Royal Palace of Caserta 

1# The Nativity sceneThe opening of the exhibition is timed to New Year and Christmas holidays – the beginning of the year 2011, which has been declared the Year of Italian Language and Culture in Russia. The project is to become the first event within the cross-cultural collaborative programme intended to mark a long and lively tradition of exchanges between Italy and Russia.

Nativity scenes, or crèche, Presepio or Presepe, derived from the Latin word presepium, meaning manger, have been crafted both in Italy and in Russia, but the Russian Presepio, so-called Vertep, appeared in the late XVIIIth century and gained its popularity as an animated puppet show rather than a sculptural composition with static figurines. The exhibition explores the tradition of Presepio making in Italy, the country where the earliest nativity scenes have been introduced to the vast cycle of Christmas customs by Saint Francis of Assisi. By the end of the XVIIIth century, thanks to the patronage of King Charles the III, the art of the Presepio was in its golden age. With time the Presepio, having been intended for sacral religious ceremonies in churches, became popular among the nobility and later on turned into a folk custom for people all over the world.

In Naples this tradition, having lost its former use in churches and patrician homes, gradually extended to all the social classes acquiring any typically popular character. The life sized wooden religious Nativity scenes had evolved into animated and expressive miniature figurines - the art form with mixture of sculpting, painting and tailoring. Nowadays the Neapolitan Presepio is probably the Naples most widely known Christmas tradition.

Nativity scenes from the Royal Palace of Caserta are composed of mobile hand-made figurines by craftsmen of the House of Bourbon. For the first time our visitors can observe the most celebrated tableaus of Christ's Nativity, including the Annunciation to the shepherds, Tavern scene, Mauritanian carnival, Greens market, Textile market. All the sculptured compositions serve as detailed spectacular miniature replicas of the XVIIIth century everyday life in Naples. Each of the exposed scenes, being both a remarkable work of art and an ethnographical relic, reveals the beauty and splendour of the Neapolitan Presepio.