A true feat of daring. Marcello Jori, in response to an invitation from one of the most charismatic Italian gallerists, Emilio Mazzoli, has come to terms with one of the most complex and fascinating visual themes – the nativity scene – updating it for contemporary viewers.
If we analyze the original name of such sets of figures and characters, namely the Latin term prae-saepes, we realize it has a very precise liturgical and symbolic message, namely ‘outside an enclosure,’ leading to the Italian presepe, or crèche.
Observing one of the most beautiful representations of the nativity scene, by the extraordinary artist Tintoretto in the Scuola Grande di San Rocco in Venice, we find a complex and very precise depiction of the birth of Christ.
Arranged on three spatially differentiated planes, representing the three dimensions of divine manifestation, below – outside the enclosure – we see the world of human beings, worshippers and witnesses. On a higher place, separated from the adoring figures, are the manger, the child, the Virgin and the father, located in an intermediate space where the human and the divine can meet. Finally, in what is now a consolidated scheme, from the roof beams of the shelter a third level arises, the angelic world, silently announcing the light that becomes flesh. Comparable scenes are found in many traditions, especially in the tripartite world of Mahayana Buddhism, the so-called Trikaya.
Getting back to the western world and continuing our semantic research, we see that in some languages the nativity scene is also indicated with the word for manger (Krippe, Crèche), or the physical place of the legend. The manger is a place of feeding, echoing the nourishment offered by the divine body that is a central tenet of Christianity. The iconostasis, the saepes-enclosure, separates the earthly world from the site of the manifestation of divine presence.
Marcello Jori intuitively replicates this structure inside the space of Galleria Mazzoli, in a skillful exercise that breaks up the spatial character of the three worlds of the Christian enargeia, adapting it to the languages of art today.
The first is that of the guests – critics, gallerists, collectors, viewers – gathered in that place on the evening of the opening, reflected in the diptych L’andata al presepe, a tribute by the artist to his native land. The second is in the sequences of the nativity, the triptych è nato and the individual representations of the protagonists of the sacred event. The third level is represented by the work L’angelo annunciatore, a necessary and unusual citation of that extraordinary moment, that Annunciation depicted, among others, by artists like Filippo Lippi and Beato Angelico.
What remains with us, in the end, is the sensation of a path, necessary and still to be traveled, an initial stage, a stone thrown into the dead waters of contemporary art, which will hopefully set a fertile precedent for the near future.