Exhibition | 19.11.2020 - 10.01.2021

Christmas & Cribs

Exhibition

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Media

Christmas & Cribs

National Museum Zurich | 19.11.2020 - 10.1.2021
published on 19.11.2020

The Christmas exhibition has been part of the National Museum’s regular programme for many years now. This winter, we’re focusing on nativity scenes from Switzerland.

Nativity figurines have been used in Switzerland since the 17th century to celebrate the birth of Jesus. A whole host of materials have been used for this, from wax to fabric to clay. In the 17th and 18th centuries, these figures were mainly found in wealthy families, as they were made individually by hand and were therefore expensive. It wasn’t until nativity scenes made from paper started being produced in greater volumes towards the end of the 19th century that their use became more widespread, as the paper objects were cheaper. These paper nativity scenes were very popular, and were easy to assemble and take down. As a result, they were later also colloquially referred to as ‘lazy man’s nativity scenes’.

This year’s Christmas exhibition will display around 25 nativity scenes from throughout Switzerland. One of the highlights, following on from last year’s exhibition on nuns, is objects from convents. The nativity scenes are complemented by a display of historical advent calendars. These calendars were often designed by well-known children’s book illustrators. The selection ranges from the earliest example, devised by Gerhard Lang and Ernst Kepler at the beginning of the 20th century and featuring simple, childlike pictures, to the first calendar filled with small gifts, designed by Dora Baum, and modern-day examples.

The exhibition is accompanied by an extensive supporting programme for families. At the Museum children can read books, listen to the Christmas story, make their own gifts, or wander through the exhibition spaces with a lantern.

Images

Nativity scene in case with wax figures, Hermetschwil Convent (Lucerne), 18th century, wax, silk, wood Loan from the Chorherrenstift St. Michael Beromünster

Nativity scenes made by nuns are often set out in glass cases, with beautifully detailed wax figures depicting the Christmas story or the Infant Jesus.

Copyright: Swiss National Museum

Mary with the Infant Jesus, Ildefons Curiger (1782-1841), ca. 1810/20, Einsiedeln (Canton of Schwyz), fired clay, original setting, painted bell jar Loan from Einsiedeln Abbey, art collection

The nativity scenes created by the Einsiedeln miniature sculptors are some of the most exquisite in Switzerland. Ildefons Curiger is a major representative of this form.

Copyright: Swiss National Museum

Mary with the Infant Jesus and shepherd, Ildefons Curiger (1782-1841), ca. 1820, Einsiedeln (Canton of Schwyz), fired clay, painted in monochrome Loan from Einsiedeln Abbey, art collection

At the beginning of the 19th century, fired clay groups were created in the workshops of the Einsiedeln miniature sculptors.

Copyright: Swiss National Museum

Folding nativity scene in a winter setting, ca. 1920, Switzerland or Germany, cardboard, paper, printed, embossed, die-cut, gelatin paper Loan from the Spielzeug Welten Museum (Toy Worlds Museum) Basel

From the late 19th century onwards, nativity scenes printed on card began to appear in private households in Switzerland. They are less expensive than sets made from clay or porcelain, making them an affordable alternative.

Copyright: Spielzeug Welten Museum Basel

Advent calendar, In the Land of the Christ Child, ca. 1910, Ernst Kepler, Verlag Reichhold & Lang publishing house, Munich Loan from Evelyne Gasser, Lenzburg

Gerhard Lang is considered to be the ‘inventor’ of the now ubiquitous Advent calendar. At the beginning of the 20th century, working with illustrator Ernst Kepler, he created this Advent calendar with verses and little pictures to stick on.

Copyright: Swiss National Museum

Advent calendar, Advent flowering tree, ca. 1936, Sulamith Wülfing, Sulamith Wülfing-Verlag publishing house, Wuppertal-Elberfeld Loan from Evelyne Gasser, Lenzburg

After 1930, religious motifs for teaching children were increasingly replaced by secular subjects, fairy tale characters, or romantic landscapes.

Copyright: Swiss National Museum

Description

A view of the exhibition.

Copyright: © Swiss National Museum

Description

A view of the exhibition.

Copyright: © Swiss National Museum

Description

A view of the exhibition.

Copyright: © Swiss National Museum

Swiss National Museum press contact

+41 44 218 66 63 medien@nationalmuseum.ch

Exhibition imprint

  • Overall management Andreas Spillmann
  • Project direction Andrea Franzen
  • Scenography Martina Nievergelt, Zürich
  • Lighting Aterlier Derrer, Embrach
  • Set building Sandra Antille, Zürich
  • Graphic and key visual CinCin Konzept und Gestaltung GmbH, Zürich
  • Cultural services and museum education Stefanie Bittmann, Maria Iseli
  • Marketing and communication Andrej Abplanalp, Alexander Rechsteiner, Carole Neuenschwander, Sebastiano Mereu, Anna-Britta
  • Technical management Henrike Binder
  • Exhibition construction Janine auf der Maur, Kim Badertscher, Bachir Ezzarari, Ladina Fait, Marc Häggeli, Mike Roder
  • Conservation and montage of objects Peter Wyer
  • Logistics of objects and montage of objects Christian Affentranger, David Blazquez, Simon D'Hollosy, Reto Hegetschweiler, Markus Scherer
  • Loans Maya Jucker, Angela Zeier
  • Advisory committee Heidi Amrein, Beat Högger, Markus Leuthard, Sabrina Médioni, Andreas Spillmann, Luca Tori
  • Controlling of project Sabrina Médioni
  • Head of legal affairs and contracts Beatrice Käser, Jana Pfyl
  • Photography Jörg Brandt, Zvonimir Pisonic
  • Photo library Andrea Kunz, Fabian Müller
  • IT / Web Thomas Bucher, Ulrich Heiniger, Pasquale Pollastro, Danilo Rüttimann, René Vogel
  • Translations and final editing Marie-Claude Buch-Chalayer, Bill Gilonis, Marco Marcacci, Laurence Neuffer

Items generously loaned by

  • Chorherrenstift St. Michael, Beromünster
  • Kloster Einsiedeln, Kunstsammlung
  • Evelyne Gasser
  • Walter Gianotti
  • Huggler Holzbildhauerei AG
  • Reto Schilliger
  • Spielzeug Welten Museum Basel