In addition to all the impressive church commissions and life-size statues, it were always the fine, detailed carved nativity figures that have been inspiring the people of Oberammergau for centuries. This true tradition of Bavarian craftsmanship is close to our family’s heart as well. Our very own nativity story is told like this:
It all started with Albl Josef’s wish to design his own nativity set. He was inspired by the artwork of the “Adoration of the Shepherds” by the famous baroque painter Gerrit van Honthorst. As in the painting, the central element of the newly created ALBL-Nativity is the portrayal of Mary with baby Jesus, in which she protectively spreads a white cloth around her newborn.
The biblical narrative of the birth of Jesus Christ, with its numerous protagonists and scenes, provides a rich source for ideas. Year after year Albl Josef carefully added more figures to the collection. An important guiding principle for carving, as well as for collecting figures of a nativity set, is to recreate the diverse stations of the Christmas story. In the tradition of how to set up a nativity set, the main event at the birthplace of Christ is always accompanied by various biblical sceneries. Classic motifs are, for example, the Annunciation to the shepherds, to whom an angel appeared to tell them the glad tidings. Another significant group of figures is, of course, the Three Wise Men (or: the Magi), who followed the star to the city of Bethlehem. But also the re-enactment of Mary and Joseph’s search of shelter or their flight into Egypt, up to different stations from the life and suffering of Jesus, are often displayed as additional sceneries in larger nativity settings. However, every nativity scene only starts to come alive by a fascinating arrangement of its various characters. Above all, that involves placing the nativity figures in relation to each other. In a good composition well balanced spaces create calm and allow the viewer to better capture all the details. On the other hand, closely positioned figures and animals within a group, support the feeling of security and warmth. The much loved angel group of the ALBL-Nativity who gather around Mary and Baby Jesus in the manger are a wonderful example of this.
Every Christmas, a different arrangement of the individual little figures provides surprising new settings and overall appearances. Everyone finds, preferably through experimenting for themselves, their own new way of doing this and thereby discovers the perfect composition over the course of the years. For 25 years already, our collection of the ALBL-Nativity is growing and will be curated and refined by the next generations. Summarizing, it is this special idea behind collecting a nativity set that inspires us the most: It accompanies your family each Christmas for a lifetime and is lovingly taken care of and expanded. Finally, it becomes your own family tradition, which you want to pass on to your children and grandchildren.
In addition to large church sculptures, the carving of nativity figures was always a special passion of Oberammergau citizens. Even master sculptor Josef Albrecht, known for large statues and elaborate relief works, took great pleasure in the details of a Nativity scene.
The painting “The Adoration of the Shepherds” by Gerrit van Honthorst recreated with our Nativity figures. The design of the Albl-Nativity set is inspired by this work of the famous Baroque painter.
In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. And everyone went to their own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.
Luke 2, 1-5
While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
Luke 2, 6-7
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.
Luke 2, 8
An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
Luke 2, 9-12
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”
Matthew 2, 1-2
(…) and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
Matthew 2, 9-11
(…) an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod.
Matthew 2, 13-15