Since some of you enjoyed the Three Kings, here is my photo (click twice for a larger view) of the Mystery portion of the Nativity scene at the Royal Palace this year in Madrid.
I use a Canon Powershot A510, which I think is a pretty good digital camera. The hard part about taking the photo was the lighting. To protect the figurines and their clothes, the light was a bit dim and flash photos were not allowed. The camera will automatically compensate for dim conditions by dropping the shutter speed, but that means I had to impersonate a tripod and hold the camera perfectly steady to get a clear photo. That took a number of tries.
As you can see, the costumes and setting are not Biblical. They are 17th century Neapolitan. The text from the royal brochure tells why:
"The oldest figurines from the Palace Nativity come from the 17th century. They are the ones that King Carlos III himself brought from Naples. The original set of this Nativity, which is known as the Prince's Nativity, was enriched with royal additions. New figure were added and the clothing was improved as old outfits were worn out with the passage of time, always keeping as a reference point the aesthetic of the Neapolitan Nativity.
"Among the oldest figurines are the Mystery, composed of the Baby Jesus, the Virgin Mary and St. Joseph. They maintain the Neapolitan origin with clothing of gold-embroidered silk from Spain. In addition, the clothing for the courts of the Three Kings and the presence of animals like elephants show the importance that exotic and extravagant Eastern elements had in the Nativity.
"Because of the social and artistic relevance that the Prince's Nativity was acquiring, Carlos IV to ask the sculptors José Esteve and José Ginés to create new pieces. The Nativity at times reached 6000 pieces. As well, in 1845, the prestigious painter Vicente López was put in charge of the scenery of the Nativity, for which the King put all the palace officials at his disposal."
Every Christmas, there are innumerable other Nativity scenes in Madrid and across Spain, many of amazing beauty, artistic merit, size, complexity, or homey resourcefulness, but the Palace's is perhaps the most exquisite.