The Neapolitan crib

Any visitor to the museum will admire the Neapolitan crib, which is taking up the space of over 25 square meters and has been positioned by Hiky Mayr in such a way that it is possible for the visitor themselves to play an active part in the nativity scene represented. 

This crib reflects the traditional and for a crib dating back to the 18th century also typical Neapolitan theatricality. It has been enriched with a vast number of extras and additional figures mainly carved from wood with hands, feet and heads made of clay. Moreover, there are numerous animals as well as objects such as clothes, jewellery, furniture and bridle gear among other things in this crib. 

This crib has its special meaning in the fact that it combines its original function, which has been dictated by years of tradition, with the splendour of its representation. The art collector Hiky Mayr has been very successful in gracefully reawakening an Italian and in particular Neapolitan tradition to new life. 

 In doing so she has subdivided the individual scenes and main figures into a precise order so that the visitor can easily understand all particularities of each single scene.

The devotional scene is however surrounded by scenes depicting the life of pleasure which is in fact profane. The two antithetical moments are all the same connected to one another by the ancient tale of Saint Joseph and the Virgin Mary who, looking for shelter, were turned away from the tavern and were forced to wander around in search of an alternative refuge. As a matter of fact, from the making of the first cribs onwards, the nativity scene was placed inside a cave which hence turned into the manger of a humble stable. In an attempt perhaps to underline the triumph of Christianity over paganism, the Holy Family was later on lodged inside the ruins of an antique classic temple.

The importance of this crib lies in its having reunited, over the years, the magnificence of the divine representation, taking into consideration its function as suggested by popular tradition. In fact, contrary to the sacred element, this crib brings out the triumph of the vices which are represented by groups of men playing cards or having fun around the table, while the landlord and the well-rounded landlady, always depicted in low-cut clothes, serve all kinds of food and wine, often in company of mandolin players.

In both cases, however, the protagonists are nonetheless common and humble people, wandering around or busy doing their jobs against the background of 18th-century daily life. The profane-sacred dualism finds harmony in a reproduction of 17th-century Napels, where the religious element, at times depicted in a neutral manner as in some North European countries, is in the end overwhelmed and involved by the genuine and folkloristic passionate nature of the southern people which adds warmth and humanity to the crib as a whole.

The art collector Hiky Mayr has thus gracefully revitalized a wholly Italian and Neapolitan tradition, accurately splitting up the various scenes and protagonists, therefore allowing the visitor to select particular elements in each one of them.