The Italian Almanac

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detail from the new Nativity

Italian News - November 26

There are naked women exposed to the view of passers-by, transvestites strolling through the alleys, armed gangsters and gypsy children begging in the street. Is this yet another harsh exposé of low life in Naples? Take a closer look.It’s a Nativity scene,or rather the latest Nativity scene carved by the Scuottos, one of the most famous families of craft sculptors.

Everyday life is set around the Nativity, but this time the traditional figures are joined by others that reflect the chaos in today’s world, and in Naples, with no concessions to sentimentality. Salvatore, Raffaele, Emanuele and Anna Scuotto have made quality their hallmark since 1996, when they set up their workshop La Scarabattola, named after the glass-topped wooden containers that hold many of their Nativity scenes.

Why then did they decide to spice tradition with eroticism and violence? The answer is simple.This time, the limelight belongs to the “absent figures”, the individuals who are usually prisoners of the shadows and have no place in history. Woe betide anyone who thinks that it is all a publicity stunt on the eve of the exhibition to be held from 26 November to 8 December in the church of San Severo al Pendino in Naples, and three days later in Rome at the basilica of San Giacomo in Augusta.The craft sculptors reject any such insinuation.

“These scenes are part of real life so they can be included in the Nativity in the spirit of the eighteenth-century craft sculptors. Obviously, our work will be on show in two churches and will probably excite comments. But we wanted to launch a cultural provocation.