Spain

Crib tradition in Spain

In Spain, as in Italy, a very flourishing and remarkable crib art has developed.

Its success on the Iberian Peninsula is mainly due to the development of mentalities and the practice of faith. The influence of Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556) and his order was decisive. The saint attached greater importance to mystical experiences and contemplation. The devotional picture was used very early as a meditation support.  The founder of the Jesuit Order had introduced spiritual exercises; the culmination of the mystical experience experienced in this way was the three-dimensional representation of the mystery of God's Incarnation.  With the exception of a decision of the Synod of Orihuela in 1600, which prohibited the use of puppets (sic) at Christmas games on the altar of the church, the crib experienced no further obstacle worth mentioning in its development. It was already known in some Spanish churches and monasteries in the late Middle Ages (3). Its importance increased during the Baroque period. Louisa Roldan (1656-1704), the daughter of the famous Seville sculptor Pedro Roldan, carved - today lost - nativity figures for King Charles II and was allowed to carry the title "Chamber Sculptor of the Royal House". At the same time, a priest from Madrid, Brother Eugenio Guttiérrez de Torices (†1709), designed baroque compositions of fine, very realistic wax figures. These compositions, closed behind glass in wall niches, contained a wealth of details.

This art finally found widespread use after the accession of Charles III, the former King of Naples, who had a true passion for it. It can be assumed that the crib theme was gradually spreading among the better circles of the population as early as the end of the 18th century, independent of the court or church crib. Leading artists from renowned workshops working for churches, such as Ramon Amadeu i Grau (1745-1821) and Damian Campeny i Estrany (1771-1855), who later moved to Rome and became a friend of Canova, made a decisive contribution to the development of the Catalan nativity scene. However, another artist, Domingo Talarn i Ribot (1812-1902), a pupil of the latter, under the influence of the 19th century Romantic movement, preferred the figures and landscapes of the Oriental style, seeking an extremely precise authenticity that is almost archaeological (4). At that time, the tradition had already become well established: it has been proved that around 1786 there was already a nativity market in front of the cathedral in Barcelona (5). Its origin might even be older.  This Saint Luzia market still exists today with varying degrees of success.  It is still considered to be one of the most important markets in the world, although since 1979 it has only been called a Christmas market. There are numerous stalls with figures made mainly of terracotta, vegetable materials, cork oak bark, ....

In the past, the traditional form that was common everywhere was to create a whole landscape with cork bark, fresh and dried plant materials, sand and earth. These compositions required a relatively large amount of space. In the middle-class and patrician families, there was no hesitation in depicting all the stages of childhood from the Annunciation to the flight to Egypt in one and the same crib landscape. It should be noted here that the houses were often much larger at that time. Today the house crib still follows the same principles, but in most families its dimensions are hardly larger than those of a table.

In 1912 the businessman Antoni Moliné (1880-1963) built the crib for the Carmelites on Montseny Street in Barcelona. For lack of space, he had the idea of making the mountains in the background out of painted plaster for a scene from the Annunciation to the shepherds. He obtained the material from a worker working in the monastery. Since this method led to excellent results, he used it more often the following year. Two years later he built the whole crib in this way. This is how the technique of the diorama came into being! (6) The subject - and this can be a biblical episode or a Christmas custom - is treated in a similar way to a miniature theatre, which strictly follows the rules of perspective.

A part of the conceived or realistic landscape is thus reproduced in its entirety despite a small depth - in the larger works between two and five metres - with an accentuated perspective.

The thorough study of the details and accessories, the lighting and the colours lend a touch of reality and mystery to the whole, which fits in well with the actual character of the crib. The scene is revealed to the observer behind a glass wall. He has the impression of being in front of a three-dimensional painting.

In most cases the front level - a grotto, a stable or a living room - limits the composition. Through the doors, windows or openings you can see a landscape consisting of two or three parts arranged one behind the other.

This type of crib is widespread throughout Spain, but it is not the only one. Each region has its own diorama styles or techniques.

In the region of Alicante, for example, there are cribs in the form of elaborately worked panels. The whole art is to represent a crib landscape in perspective in a depth of only a few centimetres.

In the Basque Country, in the region of Guipúzcoa, there is the tradition of the nativity scene, as we also find it in certain parts of Central Europe. These childlike little works from the folk tradition are called Jaiotzas. Despite the hardships of winter, children in Basque costumes carry them on a stretcher. So they bring the representation of the birth of Christ and the Christmas joy to the remote farms, from hamlet to hamlet.

The portal of Belèn is a nativity scene of smaller dimensions, similar to the one we know in northern Europe.

As at the beginning of the last century, jute fabric and plaster are still the most preferred materials in Barcelona. The other associations use polystyrene and various insulating materials more frequently. The diorama is not really a popular form of representation. However, it is so widespread that it is unavoidable in Spain (7). Since the middle of the 20th century, the diorama has also been known and widely used in Italy.  Today's nativity scene builders regard it as the most perfect form from a scenographic and artistic point of view. It is mainly used in communities.

These nativity scenes, as beautiful as they may be, are only of short duration. Most of them are destroyed after Christmas. Only the figures are kept.

A distinction is made between crib builders, who create the crib landscape, and sculptors or figurine makers, who specialise in the production of personal figures. There are thousands of the former.

Nowadays, most Spanish figures are made of pressed terracotta, cast in moulds or modelled by hand. Unique pieces are called "de palillo" in allusion to the "pal", i.e. the pole that is used as a support for the figure. Two types of figures are used in dioramas: single or serial figures. They are naturalistic in style and every detail is reproduced accurately, in correct proportions, in order to represent the whole as realistically as possible. In order to make them more stable, the craftsmen make various parts from lead: hands with single fingers, arms separated from the body, paws, horns and ears of some animals.

Except in the large compositions, the diorama usually retains a very personal character and comprises only a limited number of figures in decreasing size.

In contrast, most popular figures, which are not original creations and are also called Cacharreria, are made with used, old forms that are passed down from generation to generation.  The excessive use of these moulds has gradually made the contours disappear, giving the figures a naive and somewhat rounded appearance and making them somewhat outdated. Their production is often the result of a not very sophisticated technique. The animal paws are made with nails or wire. They are painted with bright colours, sometimes even overloaded. The depiction of the various professions or folk life often leads to anachronisms and historical inconsistencies. Unlike dioramas, we often find them in cribs.

The depiction of the actors in the Christmas story, i.e. the Holy Family, the ox and donkey and the angels, is based on popular ideas. They are often depicted in adoration and kneel around the divine child, while the more "elaborate" figures are not subject to such a compelling frame. They are more original and express a greater freedom of composition.

The production centres are located in Catalonia (Barcelona and Olot), Murcia, Madrid and, to a lesser extent, Andalusia, including Granada and the region of Cádiz (Jerez de la Frontera).

Barcelona and Catalonia

Catalonia has, as mentioned before, an old crib tradition. Two styles are represented: The oriental or Hebrew style and the native style, whose success was different in the different epochs.

The popular works, created by simple people, have mostly remained anonymous. In the 1930s, however, Joan Amades (8) succeeded in identifying more than a hundred names of sculptors and figurine makers associated with the production of crib figures in Catalonia in the 19th century. The most famous and one of the most gifted is still Talarn, which we mentioned earlier.

It is of course impossible to name all the sculptors. Some names have shaped the 20th century through their innovations, their originality or the quality of their works.

Lluis Carratalà i Vila (1895-1991), a gifted sculptor and theatrical actor, is particularly noteworthy for his remarkable depiction of Catalan costumes, which he himself wore on stage. Under Franco's dictatorship, during the Saint Lucia market, a militia officer ordered him to remove all the figures with the Baratine, the red Catalan cap that had become a political symbol, from sale. Resisting the arbitrariness and based on the principle that he could not be prevented from selling the most important figures, he was the first to make the Holy Family in local costumes ... but by taking care to always leave Joseph bareheaded! Stage effect, sense for staging and composition are omnipresent in his work. This becomes particularly clear in the dioramas, in which the local Christmas customs are depicted. For example, the return of the family members to their father's house on the occasion of the feast, according to the motto: "Per Nadal, cada ovella al seu corral"; the Caga Tio, a game invented to occupy the children during the preparations for Christmas Eve and which consists of pulling out with a stick the sweets hidden in a hollow trunk; the Nit de Reis (Night of the Kings), an allusion to the Three Kings, who bring the gifts to the children on the night of the Epiphany. Also worth mentioning is the Christmas story as a catechism lesson, which the grandparents recite to the children at the crib. Montserrat, the daughter of Lluis Carratalà i Vila, who is now very old, still continues a modest production with the forms of her father (9).

The Castells workshop has seen an exemplary development. It is so famous throughout Spain and abroad that the Spanish Post even immortalised one of its works on a stamp in 1976.

Marti Castells i Marti (1915-1995), after reworking his father's forms, made a name for himself with the production of thousands of unique pieces of exceptional realism, while his brothers Juan (1909-1988) and Josep (1913-2002) managed the company and ensured the production of the serial figures. The latter represent a kind of classicism of the Spanish crib. Marti Castells mainly made biblical-style models. His works are characterised by an extremely rich variety of themes: from the Annunciation to the flight to Egypt and the Nazareth house in clay, he depicted the entire cycle, as well as stations in public life and the Passion of Christ. He has also modeled Catalan groups from various regions (Barcelona, Lérida, ...) and Basque costumes. In some of his creations, the influence of the old masters can be seen: among other things, he was responsible for a very beautiful worship by the shepherds, modelled on a painting by Murillo and produced in series (10).

The nephews of Marti Castells, Joan (1948) Castells i Badia and his brother Marti (1950) continue the family business in the third generation; unfortunately, they do not achieve the same creativity or creative joy as their predecessors!

Another famous family is the Daniels. The autodidact José Daniel i Ursueguia (1909-1990) (11) was a specialist in biblical figures, characterised by their movement and precise representation of the muscles and anatomy. His shepherds often wear sheepskins.

His son, also known as José Daniel, continues the production of his father's works, but also creates his own. The Colomers, at first experts in wonderful crib landscapes made of cork and manufacturers of Santons made of plastic, began making terracotta figures from the end of the 1980s, reminiscent of the works of Daniels.

The members of the Muns family have also been making crib figures for three generations. Manuel Muns i Ferreres (1903-1995) was trained by his father Vincenç (1880-1970), who made numerous shapes of 12 centimetres without making the prints himself. For several years he worked for the Castells and then went into business for himself. He made a name for himself by modelling the animals. His figures are mainly oriental in style and are characterized by original and very natural postures. His son Andreu Muns i Fernandez (1939) is the third in a row to continue the tradition (12). He specialized in the production of native figures.

In a more contemporary setting, Monserrat Ribes i Davius de Castellar del Vallès made oil-painted resin groups with a strong sense of aesthetics and composition. These figures are sometimes more difficult to insert into a diorama. The natural is omnipresent and the anecdotal touching. Particularly noteworthy is the Virgin Mary in Catalan costume, who cleans the back of the baby Jesus, and Joseph, who hurries up with fresh diapers.

In the tradition of popular figures, the work of the brothers Vidal i Roca, José (1915) and Ramon (1925) should be mentioned, whose production has ceased today. They had been established in the Pueblo Espanol since 1942. Their most famous work is their depiction of the dubious figure of the Caganer (13), who does business at the crib with her trousers pulled down.

José Barbero Rodriguez occupies a special place in the world of figure making. Born in 1929, the son of a Granada family of sculptors, he received a solid education from his uncle Rafael Barbero Medina, a master sculptor of the Seville School. From 1969 to 1999 he worked as a sculptor-restorer, preserving and reproducing original works from the Cathedral of Santa Cruz in Barcelona. He has modelled numerous "de palillo" figures of 10 centimetres, in which the influence of the works of Ramón Amadeu Grau and Francisco Salzillo can be seen. Each piece from his hands is of baroque style and unique. He used sample moulds to determine the size of the figures. For each of them, he reworked the costume, the posture and the facial features, which are always different.

The small town of Olot is another important production centre in the north of Catalonia, but it has a very different attitude. It specialises in religious sculpture in general and exports all over the world. Here you can find very large pieces of over 40 centimetres. The works of the Oloter school are particularly suitable for public monumental cribs. They are mostly made of plaster or wood, a mixture of the basic material plaster and vegetable elements. This process allows the statues to be blessed because they were originally made with living ingredients. The best models have glass eyes, which are inserted from the inside of the head after an almost surgical procedure. The life-size baby Jesus, which is used every year at the Christmas mass in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, comes from this Spanish town. This industry, created in 1880 under the impetus of the painter Vayreda, the director of the local School of Fine Arts Joseph Berga i Boix and Valenti Carrera, was intended to provide work for the unemployed artists by competing with the French so-called "Sulpizian" sculpture. Here we find the same influences: stylized forms, dominant academism, and pastel tones that sometimes seem a little kitschy. At the moment, 300 people are working on a production that is sent all over the world from about twenty workshops (14).

Murcia and the East

Murcia in the Eastern Province, together with Catalonia, is probably the region that has made the greatest contribution to the development of crib art in Spain. It owes its fame to the sculptor Francisco Salzillo Alcaraz (1707-1783). The son of a sculptor from Capua near Naples, he inherited the nativity scene tradition from his father. He distinguished himself first of all by depicting the great themes of the Passion and the processional groups in Holy Week, the Pasos (15). At the end of his life, he began a grandiose work that is still considered a masterpiece of Spanish Baroque: the large crib by Don Jesualdo Riquelme, with its 556 figures from 30 to 10 centimetres in size, of which 166 represent angels or human beings. The other figures are animals. Through the various biblical stations from the Visitation of the Virgin Mary to the flight to Egypt, Salzillo depicted the reality of his time with a multitude of details: Shepherds, workers, beggars, as he could meet them. His favourite pupil Roque Lopez modelled many of them. He made most of the architectural elements, some of which are still preserved today. This masterpiece served as a model for the general aesthetics of the Spanish crib. It also played an important role in the emergence of regional folk crib styles.

In the 19th century, the tradition was preserved in various workshops and by renowned artists such as Santiago Baglietto (1784-1835) and Francisco Sanchez Tapias and his family.

Today, Murcia is home to numerous workshops, some of which have existed since the end of the 19th century. The majority of these workshops are closely linked to some renowned families. Most of these craftsmen work together in a team.

José Cuenca Valverde, born in 1918, is the oldest of the Murcian figurine makers. He worked in the spirit of the Salzillo school. His models are a little more simple and are based on the costumes and postures of the 18th century. The richness of colours that is customary in the folk tradition is treated with even stronger colours than those of the original works.

The biblical figures are currently the most popular or most exported.

They are made of cast Barbotine (potter's putty) and mostly partly covered with glued and painted fabrics. This technique, which was invented in Sicily at the beginning of the 18th century, enables the serial production of figures whose bodies are only rudimentarily shaped or modelled. The use of fabrics hardened by a mixture of glue and chalk enables the sculptor to carry out the work very quickly, to reduce production costs and to cast folds very naturally. Neutral or dark colours are clearly preferred. These figures, made in large series, are of good aesthetic and technical quality. Many stages of production, repairs, painting and pasting are done by hand. Due to their design, they are more suitable for popular cribs with natural elements. They are used in family cribs or in open-air cribs.

The limited size of these figures, which, with a few exceptions, are no larger than 25 centimetres, makes it possible to simultaneously create various biblical scenes and scenes from everyday life in the same frame. The crib becomes a sacred story, which represents the childhood of Jesus in a short version.

Manuel Ortigas Mendes (†1979) ran the largest crib workshop in Spain. He employed up to fifty people and exported his works all over the world. He has also opened workshops in Latin America. He worked in both folk and oriental styles (16). In 1978 he went bankrupt in a sensational way. In order to be able to pay the employees, his moulds were sold everywhere, another part was destroyed.

Following him, José Fernandez created models for him and worked in new polychromes. He founded his own workshop under the trademark "Decorarte". His pieces are highly appreciated by collectors.

The three brothers Griñan - Manuel, Juan Antonio and Jesus - have gained international renown over the past decades. Their works combined classicism and clear lines and had very finely modelled faces. They created monumental public nativity scenes, such as the Salzillo crib in Murcia in 1981 and the large oriental crib built in Brussels at Christmas 1991 and exhibited in the Cribana the following year. Some of her children have opened workshops, so it is not always easy to distinguish between the productions of one and the other.

To complete this brief overview, it should be noted that Pedro Serrano Monino alone represents the works of the eastern school. The crib has fascinated him since his childhood. Under the label Artisanat Serrano, he distributes the production of various manufacturers all over the world. The monumental crib, built every year in San Javier (Murcia), comes from his workshop. It is built outdoors over a total area of 300 square metres and comprises more than 3000 figures. It is known throughout Spain.

Madrid

The capital Madrid has a long tradition of cribs. It must have spread quite early in the simple folk classes, as already in 1850, a first nativity market took place in the Plaza de Santa Cruz. Today it takes place in the Plaza Mayor. The region, however, is more characterized by the number of its nativity scene builders than by the number of figure makers. In the past, only a few names have stood out, such as Eugenio Gutiérrez de Torrices, who worked mainly with wax, Alejandro Martin (†1946), who specialized in the depiction of popular types, Bonifacio Anton, who created a production in plaster, or Luis Bundia, who died in the 1960s.

In the current production in Spain, two Madrid artists occupy a prominent place. The first, Obdulia Acebedo, is atypical in style and material. He prefers papier mâché to terracotta in the design of his bodies. The gestures of the figures, sometimes driven to the extreme, give them a dramatic touch. He then wrapped his figures in pleated fabrics, underlining the baroque character of his works, whose impeccable technique is more ascribable to art than to popular tradition.

The second, José Mayo Lebrija, is known far beyond the Iberian Peninsula. He was born in Toledo in 1941 and trained at the Murcia school from the age of 14. He won first prize in a crib figure competition organized by the Association of Belenistas and the Municipality of Madrid. He became even more famous with the Great Crib of Madrid with its 240 "de palillo" figures, which he built in 1988 in Paris together with the late crib maker Cruz Àvalo († 1992).   Like Castells, Mayo was very successful in creating unique pieces. The series production was guaranteed by numerous employees. Characteristic for his work is the fine work, the harmony and the naturalness of the postures. His figures are painted with acrylic paint. The harmonious but little contrasting colour mixtures are reminiscent of the figures from Murcia. The clothing from the Biblical period is reproduced in great detail in a style that differs markedly from the style of the Catalan figures (17).

José Luis Mayo also created several very successful nativity scenes, inspired by traditions and folklore: a Basque nativity scene, one from Madrid, one from Navarre, one from Seville, ...: they were created for the various associations.

Andalusia

Already in Andalusia in the 18th century, the production of figures for folk nativity scenes was mentioned.

The terracotta figurines by Angel Martinez Garcia (1882-1946) from Puerto de Santa Maria are of a very local style (18). His works reflect in great detail the Andalusian society, both on land and at sea. Each piece is the result of a combination of different forms. Its groups of shepherds with their animals, goats, sheep or cows (rather rare animals in the region) as well as its groups of fishermen in the rocks are particularly remarkable.

During his lifetime, the artist received several awards: the Grand Prize of the Christmas Exhibition of King Alfonso XIII in 1927, the First Medal of the Union of Craftsmen in 1943 and the Certificate of Honour of the National Crib Figure Competition in 1944.

After his death, his gifted niece Carmen Guttiérrez Gallardo continued his work. Since 2000, the family tradition has continued under the name of Sucecores de Angel Martinez, S.L..  The most recent National Congress in Spain

(June 2003), which was held in the city of Puerto de Santa Maria, has highlighted the artist and his work. His forms and his cribs are protected by a foundation.

Finally, the work of two other artists deserves a special mention. They live in Jerez de la Frontera near Cádiz.

The first, Pedro Ramirez Pazos, born in 1960, is self-taught. His art is very subtle. His Baroque style is considered a synthesis of the styles of Castells and Mayo. His steady figures show a lot of movement, attention to detail and finesse as well as a - very common - precisely observed drape in the clothes. The figure manufacturer goes so far with the colouring that he even depicts the gradations in the reproduction of the fabrics. He mainly deals with the production of individual pieces (19).

The young José Joaquim Pérez, born in 1982, is the youngest of the figurine makers. Despite his young age, his work seems very promising. He devoted himself to the modelling of "de palillo" figures, but he also produced figures of oriental style in series. Despite their small dimensions, these figures are full of movement. The postures are very natural and innovative, the colours are harmonious. In his works you can see the influence and the colour palette of P. Ramirez (20).

The Balearic Islands

In Mallorca and the Balearic Islands, the traditional form of the nativity scene is the result of folk art. The cribs are called siurells. They were made by the potters as a clay consecration or incantation object and used in their primitive form in magic rituals. Both the stable and the figures are stylized to the extreme and painted uniformly white, a kind of engobe (an earthy coating used in ceramics), and decorated with green and red, sometimes black brushstrokes.  Some of the figures in front of the crib are - to the great delight of the children - pipe instruments. According to E. Houtzager, this strange custom can be traced back to an old Christmas carol from Mallorca (21).

On the archipelago you can also find other small figures made of unprocessed clay, which are very simple and only rudimentarily shaped. Other figures are very similar to the popular figures from Portugal. This original handicraft has no equal anywhere else in Spain.    
Footnotes

(1) EHSER Stephanus, Concilium Tridentinum-, t. nonus, actorum pars sexta complectens acta post sessionem sextam usque ad finem concilii (17-IX-1562-

4-XII-1563), Friburgi Brisgoviae MCMXXIV, p. 1077 - 1079 - 25th session, 1st day.

(2)BOGNER Gerhard, The Great Nativity Dictionary, History. Symbolism. Faith, Süddeutscher Verlag, Munich, 1981, p. 155.

(3) STEFANUCCI, Storia del presepio, Autocultura, Rome, 1944, p. 462. This measure proves that the custom of the crib has been on the margins of the liturgy from the beginning. In the archives of Barcelona Cathedral there is a description of an enamelled goldsmith's work placed on the main altar on Christmas Day. This work, according to GARRUT Josep Maria, Viatge entorn del meu pessebre, Barcelona, 1957, pp. 55-56, is listed in a list of 1522. STEFANUCCI, ibidem, gives the date 1572. Both agree, however, that the work must date from the 14th century. GARRUT, op. cit. on p. 32, outside the text, shows a 14th-century depiction of the Nativity carved in alabaster, coming from an altar and kept in the Pedralbes monastery. On the crib of Palma, see BERLINER R., Die Weihnachtskrippe, Prestel Verlag, Munich, 1955, footnote 383, p. 196. The author has rediscovered this ensemble from the late 15th century. Its origin is largely unknown. The crib was placed in the convent church of the Franciscan S. Maria del los Angeles de Jesus and was moved in 1843 to its present setting, the church of the hospital of Palma. Some parts, such as the clouds, are of modern origin. This crib, said to date from 1480, is said to be of Italian, perhaps Neapolitan, origin. Its style, in its current composition, is similar to the permanent cribs made of dolls, such as the cribs by Stefano de Putignano, erected around 1530. It was given by Captain Domingo Jaccome in 1536 to thank him for surviving a violent storm.

(4) About Talarn, cf. CARBONELL Ignasi, El mestre esculdor Domènec Talarn in "El Pessebre", the magazine of the Crib Association of Barcelona, No. 9, 2003, p. 11-12. Talarn was one of the first to attempt to recreate a historical framework. It seems that Father Teixidor, an artist and contemporary of Talarn known since 1877, used the term Hebrew, which refers to works of oriental style throughout Spain, in a mocking sense. Teixidor gave a very personal interpretation of the dresses, which was subsequently adopted by many Barcelona figure makers. Since then, the cribs, which have the rural typology of the 18th and 19th centuries, have been called "a la catalana" and the works of oriental style "a la hebrea". See BARRUTI Mila & VINYOLES Laura, Les figures del pessebre popular, Barcelona, 1980, p.95.

5) A chronicle by Rafael d'Amat, Baron of Maldà, mentions in 1786 a market clearly dedicated to the crib: "...fira a devant en son carrer, de moltes casetes de pessebres, cabretes, palàcios del rei Herodes, figures de barro i cartró primoroses, d'imatges de sants i pastors, bous i mules i d'altres besties". ... Market in front of (the cathedral) and in its streets, numerous crib boxes, goats, palaces of King Herod, figures in clay and pressed cardboard, images of saints and shepherds, oxen and donkeys and other animals. See Caloix de Sastre, Vol. II, p. 318. This document is interesting in many ways: on the one hand, it shows us that clay was already preferred at the end of the 18th century. On the other hand, the term sant, saint, by which we are probably referring to the holy persons, could also refer to miniature portraits of saints used by children to play mass or chapels. This meaning is therefore analogous to Provence. The first meaning of the Provencal word santoun refers to these statuettes; only gradually did it take on the meaning of nativity figures. See BERTRAND Régis, Crèches et santons de Provence, editions A. Barhélemy, Avignon, 1992, p. 44. However, the meaning of the word casetes remains unclear. Is it a kind of arched nativity scene, like those that were widespread in Provence in the 19th century, or more likely permanent compositions put together in a glass box? This description contrasts with the "popular" nativity scene, which was already fashionable at the time.

(6) GARRUT Josep Maria, p.121 ff. The author describes Molinié somewhat casually as the "Newton of crib art", because he developed a technique from chance, observation and the opportunity of the moment, which he then masterfully applied.

(7) The latest annual report of the Un-Fœ-Præ (World Crib Association), published in Rome in June 2003, gives a concrete idea of this dissemination: On page 4 he mentions - and this only for the Association of Pessebristes of Catalonia, to which 42 local associations are affiliated, excluding that of Barcelona, which is the largest and oldest - 882 dioramas created by 836 crib farmers for Christmas 2002! More than 300,000 people have visited these dioramas.

(8) AMADES Joan, El Pessebre, 1959. A first more complete edition dates from 1935, but is hard to find.

(9) About Carratalà, cf. COMALAT i PLANES Antoni, El somni d'un figuraire in El Pessebre, Zeitschrift der Krippenbauer von Barcelona, No. 6, 2001, p. 40-42. On the list of Christmas traditions depicted in the dioramas: cf. Ignasi CARBONELL i GOMIS, Les traditions de Noël et la crèche, Barcelona, 2002, interesting reprint of the Vereinigung der Krippenbauer, 2 numbered editions in French and Catalan.

(10) The Castells and their works are mentioned in many publications. The contribution by COMALAT i PLANES, La nissaga dels figuristes Castells, in El Pessebre, No. 6, op. cit. pp. 36-39 gives a good overview of the stylistic development and the family tree of the family.

(11) L'homenatge al figuraires catalans, in El Pessebre, No. 4, 1997 , p. 24.

(12) CARBONELL i GOMIS Ignasi, La nissaga dels mestres figuristes Muns, in El Pessebre, No. 9, 2003, p. 23-25.

(13) The Cagan is a controversial figure who is often encountered in popular nativity scenes and who has been interpreted in different ways. It is not entirely correct to attribute his creation to the vidals, as some authors have tried. It is true that the Vidal brothers have spread this figure widely. But the figure itself has been around since the 18th century. It is also present in the Neapolitan crib. It appears in the times of religious crises, which is accompanied by a revival of interest in the crib. Its interpretation is fundamentally different, depending on whether it hides behind a wall or turns its butt to the Holy Family. Some also see here an allegory of death that makes no difference between the poor and the rich, just as it does when emptying the bowels. See SOLER i AMIGÓ El Pessebre, una mirada al simbols, in El Pessebre, No. 4 p. 19. It is also an indication that the cycle of life continues, despite the importance of the event. Others see in this figure a fertility symbol with the ability to fertilize the soil, the crib of the next year and to ensure the well-being of the whole family. To place the figure in the crib would therefore be to ask for happiness. See BARRUTY & VYNIOLES, op. cit. S. 77-78.

14) About Olot, cf. El Belén historia, tradición y actualidad Collective Edition published in Madrid for the 14th International Congress of Un-Fœ-Præ, Madrid, 1992 pp. 118-122.

(15) Salzillo su arte y su obra en la prensa diara, Collective Edition, Academia Alfonso X el Sabio, Museo Salzillo, Murcia, 1977. On the crib in particular, see La crèche de Salzillo, Trilingual Collective Edition, Spanish, French, Dutch, Exhibition Catalogue, Institut Cervantes in Brussels in collaboration with the Autonomous Community of the Region of Murcia, December 2001.

(16) Asociacion de Belenistas de Jerez, Los Nacimientos Jerezanos, Tecnicas de construccion, collected edition, 2nd edition, June 1996, p.38.

(17) ibidem, p.41

(18) ibidem, p. 40-41. The date of birth 1879 mentioned in the book is wrong. It should be noted that most of these biographical notes have been supplemented with my personal notes, which I have gathered on the spot from the artists, museums and various local associations of crib friends. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Ignasi Carbonell i Gomis, the former president of the Association of Pessebristes of Barcelona, for his help, advice and friendly advice.

(19) Los Nacimientos Jerezanos, op. cit. S. 42.

(20) MORALES Enrique, Entrevista a un joven artista de los años 2000: José Joaquim PÉREZ in Anunciata, Revista de la Federación Española de Belenistas, No. 6, October 2000, pp. 40-41.

(21) ..en legden Hem in ein kribbe, Kerststallen en kribbe uit de collectie Elisabeth Houtzager, Ausstellungsungskatalog, Heilig Land Stichting, Bijbels Openlucht Museum, Nijmegen, 1988, p. 46 footnote 16.