Many people collect Nativity sets and that may be the primary focus of their Christmas decorations. I realized many years ago that I had a couple of small nativities but not a really nice set. While vacationing in Virginia one February I wandered into a gift shop that had what remained of their Christmas items marked at 50% off. I spied this lovely nativity set and inquired about it. "Hmm," the sales clerk said, "that's one of our Fontanini's. We don't usually mark those down. Let me ask the manager." The manager obliged and I got a 16 piece Fontanini set for $100. (This was 20 years ago.) They now sell for over $350.
I didn't realize it at the time, but Fontanini is one of the premier makers of Nativity sets. The company was founded by Emanuele Fontanini who began by making paper mache figurines in the late 1800's.
The pieces are all still made in Italy, they are all hand painted and there are dozens of figures sold separately so you can add to your collection.
Here is the Holy Family,
and the Wise Men.
I also had a few shepherds.
I bought this sweet shepherdess on a trip to Rome.
Gradually I added a few more pieces.
Imagine how thrilled I was to find a huge Fontanini set at an estate sale last summer!
There were over 30 figures plus a stable.
The detail is amazing.
Here is the camel driver tending to the Wise Men's camels.
And there is a Roman soldier checking the census.
The pieces are signed and stamped on the bottom. You can buy Fontanini at finer gift shops and online. Each figure comes boxed with a name and a story card.
Since I had duplicates of the main pieces I'll pass those on to my children.
My husband says now I have the entire
village of Bethlehem!
Do you have a special Nativity?
I like to join these parties