Nativity in the Arts
The aura of spirituality surrounding Jesus’ birth has always represented
a strong symbolic and religious reference point for Christian populations. The
event is brought to life by a vast iconography, which has been
interpreting Christmas through the various schools of thought and the
artistic styles of different periods. Le Marche boast a wealth of
valuable sculptures and paintings representing the Nativity, preserved in
museums, churches and private collections. Some
are very ancient, such as the high relief of the Sarcophagus of
Flavio Gorgonio - dating back to the 4th century and kept in the halls of the
Museo Diocesano of Ancona - which reproduces the Nativity through
its classical, traditional elements (the manger, the ox
and the donkey, the shepherds).
A wooden life-size Crib can be admired at the Museum of the Basilica of
San Nicola in Tolentino. It dates back to the 14th century,
as well as the Three Magi and Saint Joseph, kept at the bishop’s
residence of Fabriano.
Our travel through time - to mention just a few of the works scattered
thoughout Le Marche - leads us the walls of the church of Santa
Maria a Piè di Chienti in Montecosaro, frescoed in the 14th
century with an interesting Adoration of the Magi. From here,
we enter the 15th
century, when Antonio Alberti da Ferrara decorated the walls of the
small cemetery church of Talamello with a Gothic-style Adoration of the
Magi, and Lorenzo D’Alessandro painted a beautiful Nativity,
which can be admired at the Pinacoteca Tacchi Venturi in San Severino.
The church of San Medardo in Arcevia boasts two important polyptychs
painted by Luca Signorelli, the other made in ceramic by Andrea
and Giovanni Della Robbia - featuring in their lower part the Nativity and the Adoration of the
Magi. We are now in the 16th century, when Federico
Brandani created a wonderful stucco crib, kept in the Oratory of San Giuseppe
in Urbino, and many artists engaged with the theme of the Nativity.
Examples include admirable works by Simone,
Francesco and Andrea De Magistris
Matelica, Fabriano, Gagliole, Caldarola and Visso. Particularly
suggestive is an Adoration of the
Magi by the Venetian Lorenzo Lotto, kept in the Pinacoteca of the Holy House of
Loreto, which also hosts a notable marble crib by Andrea Sansovino.
During the same period Tintoretto painted a complex and
of the Magi, kept in the church of Santa Maria delle Vergini in
Macerata. The splendid Adoration of the shepherds by Pieter Paul
Rubens dates back to the early 17th century and is kept in the
Pinacoteca Civica of Fermo. Domenichino’s Nativity can be
admired in Fano’s cathedral, and the Nativity attributed to Claudio
Ridolfi is kept in the Municipal Palace of Osimo. The church of Santa
Maria Extra Muros in Sant’Angelo in Vado hosts an Adoration of the Magi.
The Nativity by Antonio Massi, a painter born in Jesi, is equally
charming and is kept in the convent church of San Francesco in Montecarotto.
the spread of the tradition of artistic cribs which originated in Naples, the
following centuries saw the birth in Le Marche of a fine craftsmanship
devoted to Christmas themes. The Pinacoteca of Ascoli Piceno,
for instance, contains the original works by the Paci family (who
worked in the 18th century). Visitors can also admire the Campana collection in
Osimo, which boasts beautiful cribs made by Luigi Guacci. This
artist was born in Lecce and used papier-mâché for his works. The Civic
Museum of Pesaro displays fine majolica objects with
decorations related to the Nativity.
Le Marche thus offer a complete itinerary through the representation of
Jesus’ birth, a different and interesting way to admire the rich cultural heritage of this region.
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