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Updating the 1927 vintage Italian Putti Nativity

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Putti — child winged angels — tumble in a cloudy firmament in this updated version of an Italian vintage original.  
The original Putti Nativity. Can you spot the differences with the Crèchemania edition, above?  
It's always thrilling to see the collection of another crèche enthusiast — albeit from afar.

This was the case when Celso Battistini Castro Rosa shared the paper nativities he loves with his "Presepe di Carta, Paper Nativities" Exhibition at the Museum of Sacred Art of Sao Paolo.

But his crèches didn't just about fill the museum, but just about every front page of every national paper and TV screen in his native Brazil.

Thus, Celso — a crèche enthusiast, designer of exquisite nativity dioramas, and good friend — just about single-handidly raised paper nativity awareness south of the Equator.

And now, could it be? A lovely crèche from Celso's prodigious collection was to be found in my inbox?

Celso, it seems, had put his new scanner to good use by sharing one of his favorite nativities with me.

It's a marvelous fold-out nativity, a 1927 vintage Italian edition bearing the Marca Stella logo, and it features three layers and marvelous art.

On the front alone, a cascade of tumbling putti — child winged angels — are seemingly playing hide-and-seek among a billowing firmament. But, on second look, they're playing a violin and a horn and singing hosanna.

Just below, two shepherds and a magi adore the newborn child, while two sheep rest leaning against a stone pillar.

As you can see from the image at left, it isn't quite clear just exactly who's depicted in the Mother and Child scene, because the kneeling center-stage shepherd partly obscures layer two. But a tender depiction of the baby Jesus asleep in his mother's arms more than makes up for it.

In layer three is depicted Bethlehem, in the distance, and in the foreground a camel caravan and flock of sheep making their way to the manger.

A bagpiper (!) leads the way, followed by a turbaned camel driver, a boy and a woman carrying earthenware jars, a woman with a basket of flowers, and a young boy playing his flute.

Celso Battistini Castro Rosa at the opening of his Presepe di Carta (Paper Nativities) Exhibition at the Museum of Sacred Art of Sao Paolo, Brazil. 
Celso had warmly extended an invitation for me to visit the exhibit and stay with him and his family, but, alas, I was out of the country at the time, shooting my upcoming book, In Search of the Nativity.

So Celso did the next best thing: he visited me. (See Christmas in the Hills with Celso and Kay.)

Upon his return home he was loaded with lots of Epson professional quality paper and inks — and a fine scanner that he promised to put to good use.

And now, in my inbox, there it was: his very first scans: the Putti Nativity.

Or La Nativitá di Cristo, as Celso called the scans, and I was thrilled with the incredible beauty of this 1927 vintage Italian beauty.

So often, the nativities we love are anonymous, but Celso had also thoughtfully included the back page of the nativity and here I spotted a name: "...un editto di Cesare..." Did un editto di mean "an edition by?" And who was Cesare?

None other than Caesar Augustus! What I was really seeing was, "La Nativitá di Cristo nel Vangelo di S. Luca: Di quei giorni uscei un editto di Cesare Augusto, che si facesse il censo di tutto il mondo." The Nativity of Chirst, the Gospel of St. Luke: And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.

With a big smile on my face having mistaken "Cesare" for the name of an editor or an artist (Cesare Danova, the Italian actor playing Cleopatra's court advisor in the homonymous film threw me off) I set about creating a new edition of the Putti Nativity.

As you can see when you compare the small image of the original and the larger of the Crèchemania version at the top of the page, there was lots to be done.

First of all, the center-stage shepherd had to move, taking the place of the old man peeking behind the pillar at left, who was moved to the right. The resting sheep were moved to the center of the front, and now the second layer is seen without having to peer around an obstacle.

The second layer, as well, was moved to the right, bringing the Mother and Child into a more central focus.

Then the Gloria banner, partly obscured behind the manger and because of its coloration was moved and enhanced. Which necessitated the re-orientation of the Star of Bethlehem.

Then it was time to color-correct 88 years of yellowing paper, and a myriad tears and scratches.

I hope you'll enjoy the updated Putti Nativity just as much as I do.

Thanks, Celso!

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