“Most people consider the crib art as a pastime, a hobby; after all, wherever in the Christian world, the crib is seen as an “occasional ” object, related only to Christmas time , and above all “homemade”. Napoli instead is the only place in the world where the crib has become Art , giving rise to a real job , the presepista (the crib maker)”
Biagio Roscigno has proved able to materialize a dream common to many people: to turn a passion into the daily work of a lifetime . Meet and speak to him in his workshop, shortly you will realize how deep his love for the crib art is.
As a child, when he was just eight, Biagio was aware of the strong bond with the suggestions from those ancient stories “carved out of wood”, as well as the fascination exerted on him by the “raw material” was great. The tools, the smells, the atmosphere revolving around the creation of a crib completed the scene, penetrating deep into the soul of that Neapolitan boy who was sure ever since about his professional future. In the early 90s, Biagio was the only student at the Istituto Magistrale who joined a free course on the art of cribs organized by his school in collaboration with the Neapolitan section of the association “Friends of the Crib”: this will prove to be a milestone for the beginning of his future craftwork.
Biagio soon started to receive official acknowledgements through awards and rewards: in 2000, he was 22 and was invited for the first time to exhibit his crib at Palazzo San Giacomo, in the Hall of Naples City Council. Yet, initially many believed that the beauty and perfection of the work of the young craftsman were actually hiding the “hands” of a more skilled and elderly master ‘presepaio’, probably his father or grandfather. Consequently, the City Council named a special commission (composed of architects and art historians) whose task was to check Biagio while working in his workshop and verify he was the real author of such extraordinary works.
This will be just the beginning of Roscigno’s career, when he had the opportunity to take part into many more exhibitions which allowed him to introduce himself to a wider audience of lovers, collectors and operators: after Palazzo San Giacomo, in the following years he exhibited at Castel dell’Ovo, the Church of Santa Maria la Nova, Casina Vanvitelliana, Capodimonte Park, San Domenico Maggiore, the offices of the Police Headquarters in Naples.
The Italian Institute of Culture then invited him to exhibit in Budapest; later on, in 2015, already famous and receiving many awards, Biagio Roscigno realized a monumental nativity scene on the occasion of the Jubilee of Mercy at Saint Patrick Cathedral in New York, and the same year was commissioned by the Campania Region to realize the crib then donated and displayed in the residence of the President of the Italian Republic .
The professional results were short to come! Biagio was a self-taught artisan, with no “family traditions” behind; his story has something even more extraordinary if you consider the extreme difficulty lived by those who want to pursue a professional activity in sectors, like the Crib Art in Naples, characterized mainly by small family businesses, where expertise and training are not easily shared and transmitted to apprentices external to the family nucleus.
Biagio Roscigno has deepened his expertise and extended his professional activity, combining his activity of realizing artistic crib sets with the preservation and restoration of wooden works and polychrome terracotta, together with the evaluation of art works.
“I have chosen to stay and work at Rione Sanità, to give something great to the place where I was born and in such a beautiful buiding which gives the whole neighbourhood its best entrée”.
Biagio was born at Rione Sanità and there he chose to root his professional activity, in one of the most beautiful historical buildings of 18th century Naples: “Palazzo dello Spagnolo”. Yet, though he has chosen to work far from the famous street of the nativity scene makers (San Biagio dei Librai-San Gregorio Armeno), he is still in contact and frequently collaborates with the Master Artisans of that area. They usually work together on the construction of nativity scenes (mostly commissioned by important institutions) Biagio specializing in the sets and the other Artisans in the Nativity figures .
Before establishing his workshop at Rione Sanità, Biagio Roscigno had his artisan activity in Secondigliano, in a location obtained thanks to a kind of “barter” which had a social and cultural content: in return for the space granted by a social Cooperative, Biagio accepted to offer training courses on the art of cribs to the neighborhood kids.
He has never abandoned this attention to the social context even after the “return to Rione Sanità”; as a matter of fact, when requested to him by the several organizations, associations and cooperatives operating in the Third Sector, he still holds (and often “voluntarily”) training courses for young people in disadvantaged social conditions, like disabled, immigrants, drug-addicted in therapy.
“It’s quite hard to use the word ‘innovation’ associated to such a traditional handicraft as the presepe. Yet, I can surely say I have developed personal techniques concerning the coating, the colouring, the ageing of the structures I build, which render my production quite different from the other cribs made and sold in Naples’.
And many crib art collectors have noticed these particularities, identifying in this special coating the “sign of recognition” and, therefore, of originality, of Biagio Roscigno’s art. To achieve such a degree of “realism” in the architecture of his works, Biagio has kept on “studying” Napoli every day; he also got a Bachelor’s Degree in Conservazione e Restauro dei Beni Culturali, which has allowed him to mature a unique expertise on the historical, aesthetic, architectural aspects of the structures and places he reproduces in his crib scenes :
“I feel lucky I was born in Naples: when I need inspiration I just walk, I close up my workshop and go around the city, especially around the Old Town. And walking around Naples, you can feel the energy the city transmits you: the Vesuvius, the climate, the sea, the scents, the energy of the people you meet, the sellers ” shouting ” at customers, well, that time is like open air theater. The possibility to live this situation is a blessing for anyone with an artistic soul who proves able to perceive it, catch it and embrace it!”
Roscigno therefore rejects the “mannerism”, he looks at and studies the past and present Neapolitan reality to recreate it in a detailed way: even the observation of water stains, of the way the light reflects on buildings or of a peeling wall met when walking in the neighborhood represent a daily chance to study and then transpose in his productions:
“I strongly believe in the concept of a Renaissance workshop: it is from there that artists such as Leonardo, Michelangelo, Caravaggio, Botticelli and Raphael have come out, just like those ‘minds’ who have then engineered, built and have become engineers. Thus, today studying Art History, the history of the city and its popular traditions, we may be able to create a better product”.
And in his case, a product which is also almost entirely new.
Since, it is not easy to find in crib art such a high level of care and attention to the “sources” and to “contexts” we find in Biagio Roscigno when designing and realizing its works; his “scientific” approach to his art is unquestionably raising the ancient and noble Neapolitan crib art to cultural standards of excellence.
- Preservation and restoration of artworks in wood and polychrome terracotta
- Realization of artistic settings for cribs
- Evaluation of art objects
Via Vergini, 19 (Palazzo dello Spagnolo)
+39 338 4174451
+39 339 1906967