Year 2 - n.1 - December 2001

Animals in the eighteenth-century Neapolitan Crib

From 1700 great sculptors of animals began to enrich the Neapolitan cribs with beautiful models. In fact, in 1700, the representation of animals had a boom and got a central role on the crib set. In the pastoral world animals are set in an unreal dimension of timeless serenity, the same one lived by period painters of animals. The expression of eyes of animals, little spheres of painted crystal that the masters used to mount on their wooden and terracotta works, shows this serenity. Great artists such as Di Nardo, Vassallo, Reale, Amatucci, Mosca and Gallo dedicated their work to the production of wonderful examples. Beautiful sheep, goats, cows, donkeys, horses and farmyard animals in several positions seem to tell some moments of crib characters' life, while the sleeping ones seem to wait for the awakening of a new awareness. And then, what extraordinary exotic animals! In the sumptuous procession of the Magi there are beautiful animals, such as horses richly harnessed, camels, dromedaries and donkeys loaded with valued objects.


A wonderful elephant, parrots, apes, peacocks, dogs and other animals follow the Orientals. Looking at these scenes you can understand, besides the religious event, what the Neapolitan crib is. You can hear shepherds' voices, cries of animals, noises and sounds, too. 


All the elements come to life and looking at the crib you take part in this timeless magic world. It is a world that still now stimulates the crib artists, like me, to make animals, shepherds and all the elements that keep this old and noble tradition alive. The Neapolitan crib, made by extraordinary people, is a particular way to represent our life on the earth.You can see many examples of animals, made from 1700 on, at the San Martino's Museum in Naples ( Cuciniello's crib and Perrotta's collection), Royal Palace in Caserta and Metropolitan Museum in New York.


Italo Sarcone