Charles Dickens, in a Preface to The Christmas Carol

“I have endeavored in this Ghostly little book, to raise the Ghost of an Idea, which shall not put my readers out of humour with themselves, with each other, with the season, or with me. May it haunt their houses pleasantly.......” Charles Dickens, in a Preface to A Christmas Carol

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Miniatures: Easter Villages with Kinkade, Retablos, and Erzgebirge Wood Carvings

Items Guaranteed to be lost during packing.
Dept. 56, "Village Pink Flamingos,"
Reorder #56.52595
There are bad things about the end of Christmas...saying good-bye to the festivities, going on a diet, facing the implication you are a year older, and several stiffer.  But those pale in comparison to the shivers evoked by the packing away of the Christmas village boxes.

It isn't just remembering exactly each figure and the group it belongs to, so you can put it in the appropriate box. Or remembering to pack each little part, like the sign from "JD Nichols Toy Shop," or the dangling little toy from the "Portobello Road Peddler," or the lid to the overflowing CIC garbage can.

My husband's storage shed.
Mine would look different.
Worst, it is fitting all of those boxes in exactly the right jigsaw pattern in your storage area, so that every box fits, without crushing or being crushed.  Then, of course, all those boxes have to be covered in unperforated plastic bags to be protected....really, I don't have to say more.  The audience to whom I am speaking also constitutes my chorus.

But after all of this effort post-Christmas, how could I ever consider starting an Easter or spring village?

Dept. 56 Easter Decorating Idea
Personally, when January hits, I could attend the "put a few buildings in a basket so it can be moved on and off the table easily" school of village decorating.  But there is another approach:  miniature scenes.  Easy to open, set up, display, take down, and store!  By miniature, I mean even smaller than most Department 56 or Lemax villages.  I mean smaller than the "creches" or "presepe" of Italy; smaller than the "santos" of Provence.  I mean, real miniature sculptures of entire villages.

I hope you enjoy your visit to Thomas Kinkade, folkart Retablos, and the wood sculpture from the Erzgebirge Mountains of Germany. 

Thomas Kinkade,
"Beloved Bible Stories"
Thomas Kinkade Easter Miniatures  In America, the artist who has mastered the craft of miniature religious villages is Thomas Kinkade.  His small table sculptures are complex, portray entire stories, and each contain an extraordinary number of scenes and figures.  This LED-illuminated tabletop piece, "Beloved Bible Stories," is only about 16" high and contains 3-dimensional depictions of 14 Old Testament stories, containing 60 figures.  I was able to pick out the stories of Noah's ark, Joseph and his coat of many colors, and the parting of the Red Sea, and there are 11 more.  The sculpture is made of resin and the figures are hand-painted.  The detail is remarkable.  This is a special edition of 3000.  Thomas Kinkade Beloved Bible Stories Illuminated Tabletop Sculpture: Religious Home Decor by Hawthorne Village

Thomas Kinkade, "Testament to Faith Lighted Wreath"
Kinkade's "Testament to Faith Lighted Wreath" depicts the events of the Passion, which is particularly appropriate for Easter.  While I have never seen this wreath in person, I know that it is crafted from artist's resin, and depicts 9 scenes from Holy Week.  Measuring 14.5", it is lighted and has more than 30 figures, all hand-painted.  And it doesn't take up a lot of room.  There is a companion piece, a cone-shaped sculpture similar to the "Beloved Bible Stories," which is about 15" high, with 13 scenes and 45 figures.  Thomas Kinkade Testament To Faith Lighted Wreath: The Passion Of The Christ Religious Art Wreath by The Bradford Exchange

Dept. 56
North Pole Woods
Oakwood Post Office Branch
Department 56 Miniatures The Department 56 miniature series that most closely resembles Kinkade's miniatures is the North Pole Woods. While Kinkade depicts an entire series of events and locations, each Dept. 56 piece consists of only one tree house.  And, while the Kinkade sculptures have serious themes, the North Pole tree houses are whimsical and enchanting.  Each Dept. 56 miniature is about 11" high, and portrays a Santa or elf scene, like Santa's Retreat or the Oakwood Post Office Branch. Retired in 2002, the series has only 8 tree houses, none of which could be used for an Easter display.

Luis Rodriguez, "Easter Procession"
Retablos  Thomas Kinkade sculptures and the North Pole Woods series are part of a long tradition in western culture.  In Central and South America, folk artists produce "retablos," miniature scenes of stories, frequently religious.  This retablo represents an Easter Procession in Ayacucho, Peru.  The priest leads the procession, while villagers carry statues of the Virgin Mary and Christ.  Only 6" X 6" square, the scene was created by Luis Rodriguez, who represents the folk art tradition of his family and his region.  Again, retablos do not depict the scope of the Kinkade sculptures .

Erzgebirge Wooden Miniatures  True village representations in miniature, a la Kinkade, can best be found in wooden sculpture from the Erzgebirge region of Germany.  The Erzgebirge (Ore) Mountains are south of Berlin on the Czech border.  Artisans there still practice the traditional art of wood carving in miniature.  While much of the work is produced for Christmas, there are miniature candle "pyramids" and "schwibbogen" which depict Easter and other scenes.

Gunther Studios,
Seiffen Village Pyramid
"Pyramids"  About 10" wide and 7" high, this hand-crafted wooden scene, "Seiffen Village Pyramid" by Gunther Studios, really does approach a miniature village similar to Kinkade's.  The scene includes a German church, along with trees, Erzgebirge style houses, street lanterns, and carolers.  "Pyramids" are scenes surrounded by candles, whose heat causes a fan above to rotate,  The fan, in turn, rotates the scene.  Pyramids have as many as four tiers, with each level displaying a difference scene.  While this is a traditional Christmas item, because of the carolers and the evergreen trees, it could be surrounded by fresh lilies and pastel candles, and work as nice Easter display.

Knuth Neuber,
"Dresden City Scenery" Schwibbogen
"Schwibbogen"  A similar Erzgebirge sculpture form is the "Schwibbogen," or decorative candle holder, featuring a candled arch over a traditional design or local theme.  This "Dresden City Scenery" Schwibbogen by Knuth Neuber has 7 electrical candles.  It depicts the church, called the Frauenkirche, the Steigenberger Hotel, the Burgerhaus (town hall,) trees, carolers, vendors, children, and Santa.  It is definitely a village in miniature, being 26" wide and 16" high.

Neuber Workshop,
"Easter Bunny Workshop"
Matchbox Scene This final scene is not a miniature village, but it was so cute I had to include it.  It is a matchbox scene of the Easter Bunny Workshop.  It is only 2" X 1.5" in size, yet you can see the wooden eggs, the work bench, and the Easter Bunny using a wood crafting tool! There are many such miniature scenes available at the following website.

Satisfying Our Whimsy, or Just Getting it Done
Of course, when putting out such miniature sculptures villages, we can't move buildings and accessories around to create different scenes each year.  We can't add or subtract people and buildings, or create our own village utopia.  In short, our whimsies can't dictate how a story is to be told.  But sometimes, we just have to get the decorating done, and with miniatures, it's just plain easier.

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