The nativity donated by Ferdinand IV of Bourbon to a Sicilian prince
The nativity donated by Ferdinand IV of Bourbon to a Sicilian prince

XIX century nativity – In Casa Cuseni it is already Christmas time. In the Museum of Taormina, it does not matter where you are standing, in every corner you can find a surprise. The director of one of the most fascinating museum in Sicily, Franco Spadaro, defines it as a «royal present» that Casa Cuseni donates to the town. Actually not everybody owns in the drawer of their furniture a XIX century nativity, donated by Ferdinand IV of Bourbon to a Sicilian price. At Casa Cuseni you can find this authentic example of Neapolitan nativity, a refined and original composition. When the word “nativity” is associated to the city of Naples, one cannot avoid to talk about quality. In the centuries XIII-XIV the nativity found in Naples the perfect breeding ground. Thus, during the XVII century the turning point, as head and limbs were applied to a puppet built with oakum and wire, and joints were used for all articulations.

Naples, the nativity and the quality – This technique allowed to change the composition several times using the same characters, in continuously different poses. We find a further innovation at the beginning of the XVIII century, when heads in clay, with majority refinement and expressiveness, substituted the ones shaped in wooden. Charles of Bourbon, together with his counselor Father Rocco, gave a push to the Neapolitan nativity production. The nativity, thanks to the faithful interest of the king and of his trustful counselor, obtained then the public unconditional approval. This extraordinary diffusion became a “collective madness in Naples during the XVIII century” until reaching a smart and refined divertissement. The nativity is a Neapolitan tradition. Matteo and Felice Bottiglieri, Domenico Antonio Vaccaro, Nicola Somma, Giuseppe Sanmartino, Lorenzo Mosca, were only some of the greatest artisans of the kingdom.

Shepherds dressed in silk with silver and gold embroideries – A great number of accessories were committed to goldsmiths and silversmiths, while the cloth was directly tailored in the royal San Leucio silk farms. Beyond this historical and artisanal context, the Neapolitan nativity in Casa Cuseni is even more extraordinary. This nativity was donated by Ferdinand IV of Bourbon, in Christmas 1811, to a Sicilian prince. History reminds that the revolutionary movements were threatening the Bourbon Crown, and the king Ferdinand IV allied with the most ancient nobility in the kingdom, and donated to a prince, maybe the most important for his cause, a stunning nativity with shepherds dressed in silk with silver and gold embroideries. The majority of the Neapolitan nativities, over the centuries, was definitely disassembled. The shepherds, the nobility characters, the Three Wise Men, the Asiatic parade, the nativity itself were sold or lost, with the exception of this one preserved in Casa Cuseni, that survived intact up to this day.

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