Fontanini is one of the most well-known companies that produces of Nativity sets and figurines. Their charming Nativity sets and figurines are known to be extremely detailed and almost life-like as each piece is hand painted. They are also known to be incredibly durable, which means that children can play with them with out fear of damage.
Fontanini – A Brief History
Emmanuele Fontanini, a trained Italian artisan, opened the doors to his first shop back in 1908. Since then the company has remained in the family hands. Fontanini, the company, has always been in control of the family, with each generation having its turn to lead the company. It’s now run by Emanuele’s great-grandchildren. Though they are not artisans, they still oversee the tiniest details of each figurine and set piece through production.
How Fontanini creates its Nativity Figurines and Sets
Creating a new Nativity figurine or set piece is a very detailed process that can take up to two years to complete from beginning to end, and the Fontanini family is involved in every step.
First, a design team which includes the Fontanini family as well as top sculptor Elio Simonetti draws up designs for the new piece. After designs are modified and approved, Simonetti goes to work, creating the prototype of clay.
After its approval by the Fontanini family, Simonetti re-creates his sculpture in beeswax form which is then used to create the molds for the figurines to be mass-produced with. This version of the figurine or set piece includes all necessary details that would appear in the final product.
The figurines themselves are made using a high quality polymer resin. This means that each figurine is going to be very resistant to breaking or chipping and will stand up to even the busiest of children, while still being able to retain its quality detail.
Once the figurines themselves are created, they go off to the homes of several skilled artisans to be painted. They are not painted completely from top to bottom by one painter, but rather they are painted section by section, person by person in a painting group, sort of like an assembly line. For instance, the robe will be painted by one person, followed by another person painting the belt, followed by a third painting the hair. Everything is painted by these artisans with the exception of the eyes and other detailed facial features, which are left to be painted by master painters who can capture the essence and bring them to life.
Not only does the hand painting process lend heirloom quality to Fontanini Nativity pieces, but it also gives each figurine a uniqueness, as every painter stamps each figurine with his or her own personality.
Fontanini in the US
While Fontanini Nativity figurines and sets grew to be one of the most respected producers of such products, they weren’t made readily available in the US until 1973, when Roman Inc. gained exclusive rights to distribute here.
In the nearly 40 years since that time, Fontanini has exploded in popularity with many collectors and hobbyists continually searching for rare and retired pieces.
Every year, Fontanini both retires pieces and releases new pieces. News figurines can be purchased from $10 all the way up to $50, while the prices of new set pieces can range anywhere from $20-$170.
While their most popular collection is the 5 inch scale collection, other popular lines include the 3.5″ scale and the 7.5 inch scale. Collections of other sizes do exist, but most have been retired and are no longer in production.
Fontanini has literally hundreds of set pieces and figurines available for its 5 inch collection. With so many options available, not only can you create your basic Nativity with stable, manger, Mary and Joseph and of course baby Jesus, but you can create entire towns surrounding the focal point of your display. The opportunities are practically endless when it comes to creating your own little Bethlehem using Fontanini nativity sets.
If you would like, you can see one of my favorite Fontanini Nativity Sets and why I like it.