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Krippen—Nativity Scenes, Crèches
Treasures from the Bayeriches NationalMuseum
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Visit the fabulous creche collection of the Bayerische Nationalmuseum from the confort of your easy chair with Krippen (Taschen).


This little book looks like a glossy museum catalog -- and now wonder: it's published by the Bayerisches Nationalmuseum of Munich, and comes with the caveat that it contains "only a small portion of the collection represented there."

Judging from the riches enclosed between its soft covers, one can only dream about the creches we don't get to see. But what's here is more than enough to satisfy even the most serious crechemaniac, including -- could it really be? -- a bona fide, museum-quality paper nativity!

It's called, appropriately enough, "Paper Nativity Scene: Adoration of the Shepherds," by a master named Wenzel Fieger, Trebic, Moravia, who created using guache on cardboard circa 1890.

"In the rococo period," writes author Nina Gockerell, "paper nativity scenes depicting myriad figures were produced with considerable artistic skill in the southern German region by well-trained church painters, who created them especially in the winter season. These painted scenes enjoyed great popularity due to their enormous wealth of detail and the small amount of space they required. In Bohemia and Moravia this art reached a high point in the 19th century.

The City of Jerusalem — a fanciful flight of the imagination, really -- provides the backdrop for a Wise Men Procession. (Krippen.)
"From the age of 14 on, Wenzel Fieger, from Trebic, trained as a bone carver, painted innumerable paper figures depicting both the Holy Family and Moravian shepherdess, whom he showed milking, making butter and cheese, and playing musical instruments."

This charming "Paper Nativity Scene" cascades down a three-dimensional mountainside replete with moss, rocks, and fences -- and Herr Friege's forest of fanciful pine and palm trees. The Holy Family takes center stage under a three-dimensional arch of a stable surrounded by shepherds in every position and costume. The eyes, dazzled color and movement, keep darting from figure to figure to figure trying to take it all in: all the cows, sheep, and lambs.

The City of Jerusalem — a fanciful flight of the imagination, really -- provides the backdrop for a Wise Men Procession. (Krippen.)
Krippen, however, is mostly a collection of three-dimensional scenes, and what a collection it is: the "Fantasy Scene of the City of Jerusalem with the Departure of the Three Wise Men after their Visit to Herod" is alone worth the price of the book. Karl Siegmund Moser (mid 1800s) has created a magnificent stage for these incredibly beautiful figures. "Over several decades," writes Nina Gockerell," the master tanner Karl S. Moser from Belzano created a large number of crib structures containing functioning water mills, tapping hammer mills and complicated lighting. His most outstanding composition, however, is this City of Jerusalem, modeled not on oriental structures but on splendid buildings representing different European epochs and styles." Think of a melange of Brussel's Grand Place and Athens' Parthenon and you get the picture.

Among the treasures of the Bayerisches is a tableau of "The Procession of the Three Wise Men" from Oberbayern, circa 1800. "The delicate figures in this royal retinue," explains Nina Gockerell, "-- the other scenes have been lost -- were produced in Tolz in Upper Bavaria around 1800 by Anton Frohlich. The expressive heads are modelled out of wax. The limbs are carved out of wood and secured to a wire frame to form the body. The splendid clothes are made of colourful silk fabrics richly ornamented with gold braid and sequins."

A paper crèche, by master Wenzel Fieger, one of the treasures of the Bayeriches NationalMuseum.





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