Angels On High
It is not ‘this time of year’ without art and music and in the Great Lakes there is nothing so magnificent as the Art Institute of Chicago. During Advent I like to stroll through the European galleries with all the famous Annunciations, the Madonna’s and Child, and of course, the Nativity scenes. These works are done in oils, temperas, bronze, wood, pottery, the mediums are as varied as the masters who create them.
I had not been to the museum at holiday time for a couple of years so when I stopped in the day after Thanksgiving I was awe struck by the new addition of a Neopolitan Creche. Do you remember making dioramas for grade school? Maybe you had to make a model of Jamestown or a scene from Greece when you were doing a unit on Myths? Do you remember how flipping hard it was to make the idea in your head come to life on cardboard and toothpicks? Do you remember carrying your fragile creation to school? Good, you are in the right frame of mind to truly appreciate these exquisite individual masterpieces of oil painted terra cotta, wire, wood and cloth.
I once made a doll for someone I dearly loved and respected. She had made me a quilt so I made her a doll. I started with greenware which I painted and then fired. Next I eyeballed some materials and sewed and stuffed a body, shortening the arms and legs until they looked right. Then I bought some lovely velvet and fashioned the clothes. I did this all without patterns. It was difficult. It was time consuming. It involved trial and error. You add this doll experience to a history of sorry-arsed looking dioramas and I can say I was ‘gobsmacked’ when I stumbled upon this creche with it’s exquisitely wrought figurines.
One entire room is dedicated to this large, fabulous Neapolitan Creche. “The Art Institute’s crèche features over 200 figures—including no less than 50 animals and 41 items of food and drink—all staged in a spectacular Baroque cabinet with a painted backdrop. Elaborate, complex, and wondrous, the Neapolitan crèche is a rare example of the genre and a once-in-a-lifetime acquisition for the Art Institute.”
It is not this time of year without art, music and a creche.
Here is one of the Art Institute’s pages on the creche. I have got to hunt these donors down and send them a thank you card. Neopolitan Creche