M: The nativity scene you’re looking at now was created by the Italian crib maker Claudio Mattei. It depicts the birth of Christ as a diorama in landscape format. It also belongs to a group of cribs that employ the principle of perspective.
F: This crib is two metres deep. But for the depth effect to work, the crib needs to be contained within a box. Continuous lines that recede from the viewer, such as paths or walls, meet in a single point on the horizon – that lends perspective to the nativity scene and makes it appear almost three-dimensional. The scenery is lit by a single lamp, which evokes the light of the sun and produces light and shadow, just as in real life. A special trick is used to create a bright radiance surrounding the baby Jesus. There’s an opening in the roof where a mirror refracts the light and focuses it on the child.
M: Don't you get the sense that you’re standing at the heart of the scene? That you’re part of the action as the nativity plays out? Only cribs that work with line of sight are able to convey that feeling.
F: Bird cages hang on the walls, a scythe and a rake are propped up against one wall, baskets stand in the corner, chickens peck at grains – it’s amazing how much effort went into dressing the set! Every single one of the stones, and there are over a thousand, was made by hand from plaster. This nativity scene showcases the high art of crib making.
M: The terracotta figurines are roughly 16 centimetres or six inches tall. They were modelled by the sculptor Raffaele de Angelis and look impressively lifelike. In a reference to the local Moselle landscape, he even has Joseph sitting on a wine barrel!
F: Our exhibition includes two more cribs with figurines from the workshop of Raffaele de Angelis. At the top of the stairs, on the right, you’ll find the Annunciation to the Shepherds, another elaborate scene that works with line of sight. Facing it on the left-hand side, we have another diorama on the subject of "The Flight into Egypt". It shows the Holy Family as they cross the Judean desert to make their escape. We see Mary nursing the baby Jesus – a scene you don't see very often. It illustrates that the Holy Family had no time to lose and was forced to flee quickly from the looming Slaughter of the Innocents.
Fotos: © Krippenmuseum und © Trüpschuch