Anyone who knows me, knows I love Christmas. As a matter of fact, I started sculpting Santas and Old World Father Christmas in the mid 1990’s. My Christmas sculptures gave me the opportunity to work on my sculpting techniques, hone my skills and my style and master polymer clay. Over the years I’ve developed into a figurative artist in the fine art world, but Christmas is still dear to me and I always make a few historical Father Christmas pieces. Here are a couple of pieces that I made this year and a little history on the characters. All three pieces are available for sale.
At the beginning of the sixteenth century the Protestant Reformation led many parts of Europe to reject the cult of saints and anything associated with it. The legend of St. Nicolas might have died then and there, but his popularity was simply too great. Most countries changed his name slightly but left his background and other characteristics intact. Even though the Protestant Reformation only lasted 30 years, his new names persisted. To the English he became Father Christmas. This character stands 30″ tall and is dressed in silk satin, velvet and stamped recycled fur. His beard is tibetan lamb and he carries a great assortment of trinkets including a vintage scotch sampler.
In Germany he had several names. He was known as Weihnactsmann, the Christmas Man or Knetch Reprecht a more sinister character from the Black Forest. He is also known as Buller Clos which means Nicholas with bells or Pelze-Nichol or Belsnickel, which means fur-clad Nicholas. This character stands 33″ tall and is dressed in red wool and recycled mink. His leather and polymer boots are dusted in snow. He carries a walking stick, vintage books and trinkets.
For Italians he is a religious icon known as St. Nicholas of Bari. His buried remains were stolen from Myra by sailors in 1087 AD as a way to protect him from Muslim invaders. The sailors brought the remains to Bari, Italy where they are still on display in the Basilica of St. Nicola and has given him the distinction of being known as the patron saint of thieves and sailors. In Italy, the job of delivering gifts to children belongs to a woman known as La Befana. She was one of the inn keepers who turned Mary and Joseph away on their journey to Bethlehem. When the Three Wise Men stopped for directions she realized her mistake and agreed to join them on their way to find the Christ Child, but first she wanted to bake some sweets and sweep her floor. When she finally set out the Wise Men were long gone and she was lost. To this day she roams the world looking for the Christ Child, leaving treats and toys to children along the way. She arrives on the eve of the Ephifany, January 6th. Traditionally this date marks the end of the Christmas holidays. La Befana stands 32″ tall and is dressed in a smocked red velvet dress, burnt velvet apron, black fringed shawl and wool scarf. She carries a wooden Pinocchio, a basket of fruits and sweets and of course her broom to sweep the floor.
All three pieces are available for sale by request at firstname.lastname@example.org