Francesco Londonio’s nativity, and the fragile newborn Jesus
Francesco Londonio (Milan, 1723-1783) created a light, fragile nativity, made with paper painted and glued onto wooden silhouettes, currently on display in Milan’s Church of Saint Mark.
We wonder whether he ever thought about how his work would stand the test of time. He had seen the Neapolitan nativities, with their rocky consistency: those were surely made to last. But what about his paper and wood?
It is likely Londonio never even considered the issue of durability. He cut out each figure with the same lightness he put in his “Teatro dei Foghetti”, which was an on-the-road forerunner of animation cinema: a traveling theater with painted, perforated paper sets, brought to life by the beams of mobile spotlights.
Perhaps the carefree artist wanted to tell the story of Christmas more than he wanted to create an eternal monument.
Or perhaps he had the perfect inspiration to convey the precarious conditions in which Jesus was born.