Oaxaca mural

Oaxaca mural

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

A Nativity Extravaganza

The 18th century Palace of Iturbide is one of the grandest of the colonial mansions in Mexico City's historic center.  

In 1965 the palace was purchased by Banamex (the Bank of Mexico) and later became the headquarters of that bank's cultural foundation.  Temporary exhibits are held here on a regular basis.  I have been to a number of them, and they are generally excellent.  Yesterday, as I was walking along Madero Street in the city's historic heart, I saw that there was a new exhibit... a display of "nacimientos" (Nativity scenes).  When I entered, I was delighted to find out that Banamex has changed its policy, and now allows photography (without flash).

So here are some photos that I took at the show.  If you think that I am posting a lot of pictures, believe me, they represent only a fraction of this impressive exhibit.  The Nativity scene has always been central to the celebration of Christmas in Mexico, and the hundreds of "nacimientos" shown here represent the vast diversity of Mexico's folk art.

As you enter the courtyard of the palace, the first thing that you notice is a display of angels, made from sheet metal and arranged in the shape of a Christmas tree.

All around the courtyard are exhibits of Nativity scenes from all parts of Mexico.

A clay "nacimiento" from the state of Hidalgo.  Notice the women to the right making tortillas.

Colorful, polychrome clay figures from Tlaquepaque, a noted pottery town in the state of Jalisco.

Clay nativity scene from the southern state of Guerrero

 Notice the thatched, Mayan hut in this group from Mérida, Yucatán.

I very much liked the style of this nativity scene from the state of Colima.

 The town of San Bartolo Coyotepec in the state of Oaxaca is famous for its black pottery.  In this scene, the figures are dressed in traditional attire from different parts of the state.

 The three kings are portrayed wearing the costume of the Oaxaca's famous "feather dancers".

The town of Metepec in the State of Mexico is known for its ornate "Tree of Life" sculptures made of clay.  Here there were several "Trees of Life" with a nativity theme.

The town of San Martín Tilcajete in the state of Oaxaca is known for it "albrijes", fanciful wooden carvings of animals.  Here that style is applied to a nativity scene.

In this piece from Izamal, Yucatán, the figures are arranged as if on the altarpiece of a church.

A beautiful wooden carving from Papantla, Veracruz

 In Mexico it is perfectly fine for a nativity scene to be thoroughly whimsical...

Here the nativity figures are out for a ride in a VW bug.

And here they are enjoying a ride on a carrousel.

A nativity chess set from Izamal, Yucatán

These figures are carved from bone.

This scene with the figures grouped outside of a colonial church was created by Guillermina Aguilar, a noted folk artist in the town of Ocotlán, Oaxaca.  (I visited her workshop the last time that I was in Oaxaca.)

 I really like the style of this "nacimioento" from Tonalá, Jalisco, another town famous for its pottery.

 These clay figures are covered with beads in the style of the Huichol tribe of western Mexico.

 These exquisite pieces from Guanajuato are made of cornstalk paste and bark paper dyed with cochineal, and are decorated with gold leaf.

Equally exquisite is this group made of wax.

There were also many framed pictures depicting the Nativity.

This one is made from cut paper.

This is a collage made from metallic paper, fabric, beads, and metallic wire.

This picture is made from seeds glued onto a wooden board.

And this one is made from yarn glued onto wood.

But wait!  There's more!  Just when you thought that you had seen it all, there is a sign saying that the exhibit continues upstairs.  There you find more nativity scenes from Spain, Portugal, and South America.

I especially like this group from Ecuador...

 and this one from Peru.

(Notice that instead of a camel, there is a llama.)

I probably spent at couple hours at this exhibit.  It was one of the best that I have seen at the Palace of Iturbide.  It will be running through February.  If any of my readers should be in Mexico City, do not miss this wonderful display!


  1. This was one of the most beautiful posts of art seen on your blog. I especially like the ones from Hidalgo, San Bartolo Coyotepec,Oaxaca, the yarn painting and the Trees of Life. I copied some to make into cards for next Xmas and I will, of course, credit you as the photographer!

    1. Thank you, Gail. I also took pictures of some of the signs that went with the nativity scenes. So depending on which pictures you use, I could also give you the name of the artist.