Saturday, October 28, 2006

Hand Made Nativity Scenes in Terracotta by Angela Tripi

It is early to be writing about Nativity Scenes. I am not one of those trying to make the holiday season come earlier and earlier every year but these handmade Terracotta figures by the Sicilian artist Angela Tripi are unique treasures, worthy of an early mention. Every year Raffaella and I choose one special figure to add to our collection. I cannot say that we are fanatic but each figure represents memories of a Christmas past. A celebration of our time together and an opportunity to revel in the beautiful experiences while we look to the future.

The Presepi, or Nativity Scene, is an Italian Christmas Tradition. Many families strengthen their family bonds dedicating months to the preparation of to their perception of celebration of the Christian holiday. Entire homes are transformed as each room represents different scenes from the Assumption, the travels of the Mages, to the birth of Christ. Each visit is an experience in time, a reflection of values and an expression of otherwise unexpressed creativity.

Religious scenes have often been the subject of artists and it is only natural that in Italy, where the Artisan can still find a market for quality workmanship, the Nativity Scene would be the object of an Artist’s life’s work. Sicilian by birth, artist by nature, Angela Tripi creates sculptures in terracotta and cloth renowned worldwide. Her works are found in the most exclusive and the most humble homes. They are heirlooms, family traditions and passed from generation to generation. You will not find these on every corner or in some big box retailer.

Shortly after Raffaella and I were fortunate enough to find each other, she came home, talking about this neat little hole in the wall shop close to our store in Milan, via Montello. It only sells figures and sculptures for Nativity Scenes. It is an antique shop. Everyone knows it is there and it has not changed over the last 50 years. It sells all year round, characters and animals for Nativity Scenes. She wandered in one fall afternoon. Figures of all sizes and price ranges from plastic to wood.

Browsing the shop, she entered a small back room and her heart skipped a beat. Enclosed in a glass case was Angela Trippi’s collection. Each piece is elaborately decorated. Every detail is painstakingly accurate. The fingers long and slim, the clothes ruffled with earth tone colors, the faces worn from long travel. Their beauty accentuated an inner desire growing in her heart to create our traditions, memories, and keepsakes.

While I will execute a pact with the Devil to give Raffaella anything she desires, she will not create a situation where I am not comfortable. I am not easy to spend money, money is a responsibility and should never be wasted or spent just because you can. So the process started. She talked about her desire for our Christmas traditions, and sincerely, once I determined the subject I moved on. She was patient. We had our Christmas tree, our hand painted porcelain or glass ornaments, and our Santa Claus who sat on the foyer table. That Christmas came and passed.

That spring we were both in Milan at the same time visiting the store. It was an unusually slow day, cold and overcast. We walked to the corner bar for coffee and cornetti. On the other side of the street, the little Christmas store, it was practically empty. I do not like crowds; I remembered that Raffaella had expressed her interest in Nativity Scenes, so we entered to do some window shopping before returning to our business. Shelves and shelves of statues, animals, barns, entire hill scenes adorned the walls. We worked our way to the back. The same cabinet that had captured Raffaella months before was there. Prominently in the center of the room I was attracted like a bear to honey. There were only three statues left. They were beautiful. The workmanship was superb and the attention to detail impeccable. I noticed the wrinkles on the knuckles on one of the Mages.

I was hooked, the price too much but I was hooked. From that year forward we spend months choosing our yearly addition to slowly create our own Nativity Scene. In the early years it was very simple, today a bit better but each piece means something. It reminds us of the good times and those that were difficult and most importantly it reminds us of our love together and desire for the future.

It will not be easy to find the works of Angela Tripi. They are special and it will take time but just as her works are her life these artisan sculptures can be entrusted with your most precious memories. Her statues are timeless, your lives are also.


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Blogger ChickyBabe said...

I love your idea of adding one piece a year; it's so romantic. In my travels to Italy, I have seen some of the figurines and they are so well made. The French have the santons (made out of clay) which are also pretty at Christmas time. I'd love to spend Christmas in Italy...

1:47 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

From the pictures they do look beautiful. I imagine they are even more impressive up close, when you can see the detail.

That is a lovely tradition you tow have made for yourself :)

4:35 AM

Blogger Travel Italy said...

ChickyBabe Over the years we have our traditions and complicity. Christmas in Italy is marvelous if experienced in a home setting.

Jennifer I reduce the definition to consume less space with the pictures. They are truly beautiful and the detail impressive.

9:58 AM

Blogger a.c.t. said...

My Mum has a nativity which she gets out every year and it still has the backround that I made when I was little, so I need to find her a new one. She moves the Three Kings a little bit closer as they approach. It also has random animals which would never have been there, but it's very sweet.

11:03 AM

Blogger Travel Italy said...

ACT If I were your mother I would not want to change the background you made as a kid. Perhaps develop it, add something around but not change it out. The presepe is about family. I believe, for her, it is the most prescious part of the tradition.

11:20 AM

Blogger Unknown said...

I was fortunate enough to travel to Italy from Indiana, USA in 2000 and discovered a shop with Angela Tripi's pieces in Rome. I purchased a nativity set and shipped it home. Imagine my dismay when it arrived and the fingers were broken on the Madonna and the baby Jesus. Through some long phone conversations from Italy to Indiana, the shop was able to contact Angela Tripi and she agreed to make me a new set! How blessed am I! She created a Madonna and Child solely for me! They are beautiful and I am so grateful. I have several other "copies" of her figures purchased here in the States but to this date am unable to find any originals. Happy hunting.

4:38 PM


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