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Christmas at the Museum: simple Images for the Festive Season

Paper nativity scenes, illustrated sheets, reliefs, decorations and stories from Udine's "Ida Sello" collection
From 6 December, 2016 until 22 January, 2017

For the duration of the 2016 festive season, the Museo Etnografico del Friuli will open its doors to the public for a special Christmas themed exhibition. This will feature a selection of religious and secular artefacts and images taken from the Ida Sello collection, currently housed in the building that was once the premises of the furniture factory run by the brothers until the late 1860s. The collection brings together a wealth of innovative materials for teaching the Christmas story in infant schools, including, for example, nativity scenes printed on paper and card to cut out and colour. The earliest examples of this tradition, which dates back to the 1600s, were produced by the peninsula's earliest printing press, Soliani e Remondini, with companies in Germany, France and Italy following in their wake. Thanks to technical innovations, especially in the field of chromolithography, these latter producers were able to achieve remarkable colour effects. Further enhancing the festive atmosphere, there were Christmas dioramas and theatrical nativity scenes which encorporated forshortening techniques, including coloured backgrounds made from paper, to create the illusion of three dimensional space and add to the sense of spectacle.

The illustrated sheets, which featured a range of decorative images in a wide variety of colours, were hugely popular and not particularly subject to the whims of fashion, thus guaranteeing a profitable return for the printing companies commissioned to produce them for insertion in company catalogues. These were offered as gifts to children to be put together with adult members of the family and read year after year in celebration of the magic of Christmas.