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The facade of the Basilica of Santa Maria Novella graces a paper nativity

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A masterpiece of Renaissance art, a magnificent facade by Leon Battista Alberti, adorns a paper nativity...

 
A vintage crèche, a new facade — the Santa Maria Novella Nativity shown larger than its 4 x 4.75 x 1.75 inches. 


 
The original asymmetrical front of the vintage paper nativity. 
Do the Magi figures of the Santa Maria Novella Nativity look familiar?

That's because they're the same as those featured in the Garland Nativity that's part of Crèchemania's Thurible Nativities collection.

This might be apparent right away, because the Santa Maria Novella Magi aren't presented here in mirror image, they're also depicted in the softest palette that complements the softly-colored roses that adorn the front.

It's that front that gave me pause as I was conserving this nativity, erasing wax and water stains (seen on the original nativity at left), and restoring tears and missing areas.

The simple roof line? I could live with that. The broken ends of the Ehre sei Gott in der Höhe (Glory to God in the Highest!) banner? Those I could restore.

What I found rather odd was the asymmetry of the front, with the standing Magi half-hidden by a wide rose-covered wall.

And that's when the profile of Santa Maria Novella, Florence's oldest Basilica, flashed in my mind (see top of page). It may be called "New," (Novella), but it was built in the 13th century and is a treasure-house of art, with works by Botticelli, Ducio, Filippino Lippi, Giorgio Vassari, Masaccio and countless other masters.

The Basilica's famous facade, by Leon Battista Alberti, with its duotone dark-and-white marble, is itself a masterpiece of Renaissance art. Its classical pediment is framed by two "S" shaped volutes that join the upper part of the basilica with the lower, and wonderfully serve to obscure the slopping roof of the naves.

 
Leon Battista Alberti's magnificent facade of Santa Maria Novella. 
A quick search in my photo catalogs, and soon the facade of Santa Maria Novella graced the homonymous nativity (see photo at top), and now the real fun began: arranging the roses within the silhouette of the new facade.

A touch of color correction, and the Santa Maria Novella Nativity is now become part of the Crèchemania Collection as a Premium Download.

The Santa Maria Novella Miniature Nativity

At first glance, the differences between the Santa Maria Novella Nativity and its miniature version might not be apparent.

In fact, some crèche enthusiasts have wondered why two versions at all? Wouldn't it due to just print the larger nativity at a reduced magnification?

The answer is two-fold: first, the contrast of the miniature has to be fine-tuned, so that the resulting print does not appear too dark due to the size reduction.

And second, because of the smaller scale, the design has to be simplified as well. Besides, I decorate my Crèche Tree with my miniatures, and keeping the weight down is a must. Otherwise, as you can see in the photo at left, its slender wire branches would droop under more than a couple of ounces!

In this case, four layers were reduced to two, and the Magi layer is now part of the Front. In fact you'll notice that, to create a more pleasing composition, the two groups of Magi were divided.

 
A miniature as light as a feather. 
The Mother and Child layer is now part of the Manger back wall, with a soft shadow added to create depth.

But before I could share the Santa Novella Miniature Nativity Premium Download with you, I had to actually make one. Why? So I could determine where the holes for the cord would need to be placed.

So, with Christmas carols playing and my printer humming, I was picked up my X-Acto knife, and about ten minutes later I was gently balancing a miniature between two T-pins. By moving the two T-pins forward and back along the side walls the miniature hung perfectly straight up-and-down, and a slight indentation with each T-pin marked where each hole should be.

With the edition of these two holes on the Manger side walls, the Santa Maria Novella Miniature Nativity was now ready for its crèche world debut.

Enjoy!

—Alexis

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