2021 The Crèche in the Sistine Chapel

by Giuseppe Passeri
Eva Antulov
In collaboration with Esther Michel Nanà

Project - Construction - Implementation

The Renaissance Style Creche in the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican 2021

The Renaissance- style creche in the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican Museums 2021-22 is a homage to the artist Raphael Sanzio. Conceived, designed and made by the artists Giuseppe Passeri and Eva Antulov, the creche was blessed by the new Master of Liturgical Celebrations to the Supreme Pontiff, Mons. Diego Giovanni Ravelli. Beneath the frescos of Michelangelo, Botticelli, Perugino, Ghirlandaio, Roselli and Signorelli, the two artists furnished their third creche in the temple of art that is the Sistine Chapel.

The creche, already conceived in 2018, presents innovative and creative characteristics which Giuseppe Passeri and Eva Antulov studied not only with regard to the Renaissance style but also the spiritual and philosophical aspects. The scenery is a tribute to the architecture and artistic styles of our country; the right side of the creche is inspired by San Gimignano, while the left is inspired by Spoleto and San Gimini. Below, the markets are presented as a part of the Loggia in the Vatican. The central part hosts the Nativity scene and the Serapeum of the Villa Adriana, as it may have appeared to the eyes of the emperor Adrian, with internal frescos such as were painted in the Villa Romana of Moregine.

There are various tributes to Raphael, in the frescos of the School of Athens, painted in miniature by Eva Maria Antulov and located in the tympanum of the temple, while in the background the country scene is inspired by the Debate of the Sacrament, both works of Raphael painted in the Stanza of the Segnatura. The Nativity also alludes to Raphael, as the Virgin and St. Joseph are both vested in the robes The Marriage of the Virgin painted by the great artist of Urbino. Moreover, Raphael is also represented by a figure in the creche, seated at a table with paintbrush in hand while he engages with self- portrait and other with other works.

Giuseppe Passeri laid out the entire creche scene, weaving in historical references to the Renaissance period, rich with significant symbols of each of the personages represented. The base of the creche was made from wood and sugar paper. Giuseppe designed and made all the tables in the creche with the tiny objects on each. From his wide expertise of minerals and natural pigments, Giuseppe used old methods to produce colours present in the creche such as the blue of lapis lazuli along with yellow and red ochre. To make the creche even more precious, as with previous creches made by the pair, precious minerals were inserted in various places, for example a rare diaspro found in the isles of the Tuscan archipelago and elaborated by Giuseppe. To this were added a number of beautiful azurites found in the mine of Alnif to the east of Bou- Asser in Morocco.

The costumes of the personages included in the crib were made according to a careful study of the dress of the Renaissance period, contemporary with the era of Raphael. These were made also with the assistance of the research artist Jean Paul Troili.

Eva Antulov’s knowledge of philosophy and theology were most useful in creating a “true” line in the search for the truth on the part of the School of Athens, the Divine Revelation of the Truth which is represented in the centre of the creche background with the Nativity and the Truth which was made a gift and present for us “until the end of the world ( Mt. 28,20) in the Eucharist, represented in the Debate of the Sacrament.

These three phrases are symbolised by two embraces. The first is visible in the internal form of the temple where philosophy embraces theology because the rational, made man, searches to enter into our era, thus revealing itself and becoming the response to all philosophical questions. The second embrace is in the form of the panels behind, where Jesus, the Way, the Truth and the Life (Jn. 14,6) is united to man whom he seeks and meets in order for him to participate in the same Eucharist.

Work on the creche lasted nine months and the artists were assisted by a number of collaborators, especially in the placement and fitting of the work in the Sistine Chapel, the electrical lighting system which was particularly complex, and the placing of the bonzai tress which were arrange by a specialist in the field.

The creche will remain on display in the Sistine Chapel until 15 January 22 with the visit to the Vatican Museum.

Please see also www. anikitosarte.com


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