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Exhibition November 23, 2019 − January 6, 2020
Neapolitan nativity scene
Neapolitan nativity scene- A complex Christmas scene that reflects the vitality and skill that the city is still known for. The nativity scene of the Chicago Institute of Arts contains more than 200 figures, including at least 50 animals and 41 images of food and drinks, all in a spectacular baroque cabinet with a painted background.

Sacred images that recreate Christmas have their roots in fourth-century Rome, but by the 13th and 14th centuries, partly due to its connection with St. Francis of Assisi, such scenes became a permanent feature of Neapolitan churches. During the 18th century, these relatively simple paintings underwent a transformation into dramatic and theatrical works. The traditional sacred elements of the Christmas scenes - the Holy Family, sages, angels and shepherds - were combined with the defiled aspects of not Bethlehem, but of modern Neapolitan life - noisy taverns and noisy street activities - in dazzling displays of artistic techniques. Churches, wealthy citizens, representatives of the nobility and the royal family competed to order the most complex presentations of this popular art form from leading artists and artisans, the same people who created monumental sculptures and altars for churches and palaces.

The nativity scene of the Art Institute is the pinnacle of this artistic practice, born of the centuries-old tradition of Christmas scenes, in which the Neapolitan life of the 18th century is seething.