The Same Collection consists in two series of
miniatures: 33 Nativities in tiny natural
containers, and 42 sculptured scenes in
walnuts inspired by Dante’s masterpiece: The
Kids, Teens and Schools
The Same Collection is a group of very small artworks of delicate beauty – so tiny that they challenge our imagination about the possibility of human creation. The name of the Collection comes from the name of the artist, Antonio Maria Esposito, who was also a priest in Castellammare di Stabia, a small town near Naples. Between 1942 and 1999, he created 75 minuscule works of art in silence and solitude. All of these works are now visible in the old town of Naples. They might be the smallest and most beautiful miniatures made by an Italian artist of the second half of the Twentieth Century. They are divided in two groups: forty-two walnuts containing scenes from Dante’s Divine Comedy and thirty-three Nativities (the presepi, as they are called in Italian). The Nativities are set in little organic containers: a chestnut, a pistachio, a cherry pit … In order to admire these works of art, every visitor is given a personal magnifying glass!
Those “microwonders” have remained so far unknown because of the peculiar circumstances they were born in. Don Antonio didn’t create his works of art to sell them or to exhibit them: for him, miniature was a spiritual exercise of patience. Therefore, his miniatures are spiritual artworks, like the buddhist mandalas or the icons of the Christian Orthodox Church. Some of his Nativities were exhibited during his life (in Castellammare di Stabia, Milan, Verona) and after his death (in Castellammare di Stabia and Torre Annunziata) and the entire collection has been shown only in 2016. His 42 walnuts with scenes from the Divine Comedy are a novelty also for the Neapolitan visitors. In fact, he used to show them only to a small group of friends and relatives, as a proof of his extreme love and knowledge of Dante’s masterpiece. On June 24th the temporary exhibition I Presepi da Guinness (“Guinnes Nativities”) has become the stable Museodivino, open everyday from 10 am till 11.30 pm. Anyone passing by Naples has now the chance to admire the amazing miniatures of the Same Collection.
Don Antonio invented a specific technique to create his “presepi” and his millimetric Divine Comedy. The bodies of the characters are little drops of oil painting which were left to dry for months and then carved with surgery instruments. This might be acompletely technique new in the history of sculpted miniature. The figures are very dynamic, they seem to jump, run, knee in front of our eyes as soon as we approach them with our magnifying lens. The heads of these tiny characters are made with an unexpected, rounded and resistant natural material: a grain of pear pulp
The landscapes are usually created assemblying different natural materials. Gems of pines and pistils of flowers become high palms and cypresses surrounding the Nativity, while few millimeters of moss become the “dark, deep forest” where Dante begins his journey in the Divine Comedy.
We don’t know precisely why this artist created “only” Nativities and scenes from the Divine Comedy. What we do know, is that the first miniature of his life originated from a deep sorrow, the loss of his mother in 1942. As a way to react to this unbearable pain, he took a small box of medicine of hers, and carved a very tiny Nativity inside of it. The scene is full of sweetness and tenderness. It represents a Child protected not only by the Mother and Joseph but also by the three Wise Men, who are close to one other and act as a shield at the entrance of the cave. From this moment on, for more than fifty years, this spiritual practice became part of Don Antonio’s life. He used to make one Nativity per year. His last work is a Presepio in a cherry pit, the smallest that you can find at Museodivino after the one in a seed of hemp.
On the other side, the series of works inspired by the Divine Comedy is still to explore. We don’t know why and when he began to create them. According to family stories, they were born from his memory of the Classical studies at the Barnabite Fathers. The works inspired by the Divine Comedy are obvious proof of the artist’s deep love for culture, evidenced by his personal library which was donated by the heirs to the Diocesan Curia of Castellammare di Stabia. Museodivino is also a Research Center on the main subjects of the Same Collection: the meaning of the Neapolitan Nativity, the modern iconography of Divine Comedy and the history of the Same Collection itself.
The Nativity contained in a seed of hemp that can be admired at the Museodivino might actually be the smallest Nativity in the world. It has been measured twice by highly professional experts, at the National Institute for Nuclear Physics in Naples and at the ENEA (Italian National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development) in Brindisi. The sculptured group contained in the seed has a maximum lenght of 2,8 mm! The video below shows the circumstances in which the measurement were taken and the amazing instruments that were used.
The Guinness World Record Commettee is considering to list this masterpiece under a new category: “the smallest Nativity in the world created by a human being”. In fact, a smaller Nativity created by a 3D printer is now holding the record as “the smallest Nativity in the world”. It is as “big” as a cell – an incredible object! But obviously it belongs to a totally different typology, as it was made by a machine. The smallest Nativity at Museodivino was made by a human being, who carved drops of oil painting to represent our human bodies and used grains of pear pulp to represent our human heads …
Anybody can be the ideal visitor of the Museodivino! We try to fulfill every need of yours. Everyone is given a magnifying glass and a little torch at the entrance. Our volunteers will guide you through Museodivino and help you explore the Same Collection, answering your questions and curiosities. Children are especially welcome: the stalls containing the Nativities are at a low level so that the smallest human beings can admire the smallest artworks!
The Same Collection is in a side street of the famous “Spaccanapoli”, in the heart of the old town of Naples. It is just a stone’s throw from Piazza del Gesù and Piazza San Domenico. Meroever, it’s a three minutes walk from the Veiled Christ, a five minutes walk from the “nativity road” San Gregorio Armeno, and ten minutes away from Caravaggio’s “The Seven Works of Mercy”.
The Museum is open everyday from 10 am to midnight. Our staff speak fluent English, French and Italian. On booking we organize tours in German, Spanish and Russian. Groups and schools are welcome: please contact us to arrange the details of your visit in security.
With a magnifying lens in the hand, visitors travel through this microuniverse in an interactive journey at the roots of Italian literature and in the deep heart of Neapolitan culture
Free entry with free donation
from 10 am to midnight
Photo credits © GiorgioCossu / Museodivino.
Associazione Culturale “Progetto Sophia. Donne verso la Bellezza” sede operativa Via San Giovanni Maggiore Pignatelli 1b. P.Iva: 95237130638