Nativity Online Tour

Do You See What I See? Imagery in Nativity Scenes

Introduction Biblical Sources for the Nativity Apocryphal Sources for the Nativity Visual Elements in Nativity Scenes Nativity Traditions in Bryn Athyn, PA Further Reading

Overview

The art collections at Glencairn Museum, Bryn Athyn, Pennsylvania, contain many examples of depictions of the Nativity and infancy of Jesus Christ, including paintings, illuminated manuscripts, sculptures, and stained glass windows. Many of these works date to the medieval period, although a few were created as recently as the last century, including a large three-dimensional Nativity scene produced in Bryn Athyn in the 1920s (see Two Nativity Traditions in Bryn Athyn, Pennsylvania).

In 2009 the Museum began an ongoing initiative to collect three-dimensional Nativity scenes made by artisans from around the world for its annual exhibition, Follow the Star: World Nativities. This Web resource is intended to provide visitors to the exhibition with additional cultural, historical, and art historical information. Although Nativity scenes can be enjoyed on purely aesthetic and spiritual grounds, we believe that to fully appreciate a Nativity it is necessary to understand the origins of the imagery and the context in which it was created.

Alebrijes Nativity. San Martin Tilcajete, Oaxaca, Mexico, late 1990s. Artisans of the Oaxaca valley carve Alebrijes figures using the wood of the local copal tree. Some of the carvings depict mythical creatures with roots in pre-Christian beliefs. The animals in this Nativity set apparently represent the traditional ox and donkey, but have been carved and painted in the style of the fantastic Alebrijes creatures. Collection of Glencairn Museum, gift of Frank and Mary Herzel.

Credits

Content: Ed Gyllenhaal

Research Assistance:
Kirsten Gyllenhaal and Michele McElderry

Web Design: Chara Odhner

Production Coordinator: Joralyn Echols

Photography: Diane vanZyverden

Music: Kevin MacLeod

We would like to thank the Bryn Athyn College Research Committee and Glencairn Museum for their support.

Introduction Biblical Sources for the Nativity Apocryphal Sources for the Nativity Visual Elements in Nativity Scenes Nativity Traditions in Bryn Athyn, PA Further Reading