The Christmas story as told in Nativity art

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AS SIGNIFICANT representation of the Christmas story, the Nativity scene as depicted in a number of dioramas from international collections was the center of this year’s Christmas exhibit hosted by the UST Museum of Arts and Sciences.

The exhibit featured various representations of the famous belen or the scene of the birth of Jesus in a manger in Bethlehem.

Most of the Nativity sets on display came from UST Archivist Regalado Trota Jose’s collection along with other private collections.

Described by UST Museum Director Fr. Isidro Abaño, O.P. as “instructional,” the exhibit is in connection with UST’s thrust of staging Christmas-themed activities.

“The Thomasians can use it as an avenue for on-going, non-classroom education to be more equipped with regards to Christian art,” Abaño told the Varsitarian during the opening night last Nov. 28.

A six-foot Nativity scene applied with bas-relief, a sculptural technique that displayed figures detached from the background, welcomed the guests of the exhibit. Its intricate details carved in ivory are shown in primary colors accented by hues of gold for the angels and the pillars that enclose the Holy Family.

“We made research about the symbols that you find in the Creche, another term for the Nativity set, so when you see different Nativity sets, you know the symbolisms of the things you see there,” Abaño said.

Abaño then referred to the distinct quality of the Neopolitan Nativity Set, a ceramic collection from Naples, Italy that represents the story embodied by the song “Carol of the Animals.” It showed the Holy Family surrounded by animals, narrating a scene that when Christ was born, the animals were given the privilege to speak for one day.

A set from Pampanga exuded a more serious aura as the figures were made from the volcanic ash collected from the Mt. Pinatubo eruption in 1991.

The piece titled “Holy Family,” is a “Filipinized” representation of the nativity scene as it featured Jesus, Mary and Joseph in old Filipiniana clothing while holding the child Jesus.

Another Nativity set from Bacolod City has its characters clad in traditional Filipino farming clothes. Made with polychrome clay, the Mary and Joseph figures are shown sitting on the floor holding the infant Jesus.

“These Nativity sets are not historical, they’re symbolic,” Abaño said.

He added that the exhibit is tailored to cater for the Thomasians who wish to know more about the different kinds of nativity sets.

“When they see the exhibit, they learn some important information. So whenever they see Christian nativity sets, they know the story,” the museum head said.

Nativity sets are traditionally displayed in homes during the Christmas season, particularly by Christian families.

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