Over the years, Betty Lynn and I have collected a few Fontanini figures which now make up the little tableau pictured here. It all began with five inch "Dinah" in the blue-green dress, whom I found in a little shop in "old" Montreal. These polymer figures are made and hand-painted in Italy. Each one comes with a story card which not only tells a story about the figure, but also gives an interesting insight into life in biblical times. Dinah's story card, for instance, tells of her first participation with her drum (timbrel) as an adult in Shavout, the Festival of First Fruits.
The fourth generation of the Fontanini family is still carrying on the Italian Nativity tradition. These Nativity figures are still crafted in Bagni di Lucca, a village nestled in the hills of Tuscany. This region is home to the Fontaninis, who continue to carry on the artistic legacy of their great-grandfather Emanuele Fontanini who founded the company in 1908.
While in the United States on business, Betty Lynn came upon a second figure of Dinah, in a special limited edition created for the Fontanini Collectors' Club. This figure was sold to members only and production was limited to those produced in 2001. While she is cast from the same mold as the first Dinah, this special edition was now painted with a red dress and darker hair. The special edition figure also identifies the sculptor Elio Simonetti as her creator.
With our two Dinahs in mind, we started watching for other Fontanini figures that might compliment our collection. In August 2011, at Bronner's Christmas Wonderland in Frankenmuth, Mich., we found the music cart, also from the 5 inch village collection. While there is no story card to go with it, it is a wonderfully detailed cart with nine traditional biblical musical instruments to attach to the frame. We were excited as one of the instruments was the frame drum, with a second molded into the body of the cart itself.
The box for the music cart showed the cart being pulled by a white horse with a colourful Italian Renaissance looking harness, totally inappropriate to my eye for the cart. It was sold separately, and we were not interested. For some time, we simply left the cart with the two Dinahs on the shelf, but it always looked a bit incomplete. In time, we found a little Christmas store (now closed) outside of Merrickville. ON, which had a small selection of Fontanini figures. I always thought a donkey might be more appropriate for the cart than a horse, but the only donkey they had was reclining. It was then that it occurred to us that if the Dinahs were singing and dancing with their drums, the sensible donkey would not stand around, but take advantage of the opportunity to rest his weary feet!