Art Deco “Star Nativity”

Emil Thomann

Glencairn Museum

Glencairn Museum
Bryn Athyn, United States

“Emil Thomann began learning his craft in the School for Woodcarving (Schule für Holzbildhauerei) in Brienz, Switzerland, where he designed his first Nativity. He continued his training in Cologne, Germany, where his work was influenced by the geometric style of the Art Deco movement. He returned to Brienz in 1934 to work in the woodcarving business founded by his father (who was also named Emil Thomann). The younger Thomann designed this triangular “Star Nativity” (Sternkrippe) in 1937, but he continued reproducing the style until at least the 1980s.

The Thomann workshop in Brienz survived the difficult years of the Great Depression thanks largely to exports to the USA—including an order for St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City for a Nativity with figures measuring three feet tall. Father and son worked together in the family business until the elder Thomann’s death in 1964. The younger Thomann continued working long beyond retirement age and lived to be more than 100 years old.” (Ed and Kirsten Gyllenhaal, label text, “World Nativities 2020”)


  • Title: Art Deco “Star Nativity”
  • Creator: Emil Thomann
  • Location Created: Brienz, Switzerland
  • Medium: Wood
  • Date: Designed in 1937
  • Collection: Nativities
  • Accession Number: C235

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