Neapolitan folk art


Royal craftwork from Naples
The lime vendor waits for thirsty passers-by, a lad takes a siesta on a straw cart, and women gossip on their balconies. The Neapolitan folk art of crib-making gives us a unique view of Neapolitan life in the 18th century.

The specimen in the Basel collection was made by the Neapolitan artist for nativity scenes, Mario Capuano. It was a commission, completed after long months of handiwork. He created a scene in the 1990s on around 15 square metres showing the bustling street life of his native city including many of its buildings and figures, the so called pastori. Incidentally, the Capuano family has been practising the art of making Christmas cribs ever since 1840. Major works include a Christmas crib for the former Spanish king, Juan Carlos.

Neapolitan Christmas crib-making originated in the late 15th century in the portrayal of the Holy Family. In the 18th century, the Bourbon King Charles III fostered the craft to reach its heyday: his enthusiasm for the art spread to wealthy burghers, monasteries and churches.

Selected Neapolitan folk art