Italian craftsman Fontanini to visit Nelson Fine Art shop

A FONTANINI VISIT — Mark Nelson, left, and Kevin Jordan, retail store manager for Nelson Fine Art, stand in front of a display of Fontanini Heirloom Nativity items that are on sale at the Lincoln Avenue store. Emanuele Fontanini will make an appearance at Nelson’s from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Friday to sign Fontanini-crafted items. -- Dave Gossett

STEUBENVILLE — Emanuele Fontanini, a fourth- generation member of the Italian family that has crafted nativity figurines since 1908, will make a two-hour appearance at Nelson’s Fine Art on Lincoln Avenue Friday afternoon.

According to Kevin Jordan, retail store manager, Fontanini will be signing nativity set items purchased in the store during his visit to Steubenville.

“We started a relationship with the House of Fontanini a few years ago and added their ­product to our store. We have a number of religious items and wanted to bring in more Christmas articles,” explained Jordan.

“Emanuele Fontanini is on a tour of the United States and agreed to stop in Steubenville for two hours before returning to the airport and flying to his next destination. He and his family are probably the most famous nativity makers in the country. People who own a Fontanini Nativity will pass it on to their children. And the House of Fontanini creates additional figures every year that can be added to the nativity sets,” Jordan said.

“We are very excited to have him come here. We have been carrying his items for about three years now, and they produce a high quality product. We have customers who come here from throughout the Tri-State Area to purchase a Fontanini figurine for their grandchildren,” noted store owner Mark Nelson.

The nativity display at Nelson’s has the entire village of Bethlehem on display.

“Some people have collected hundreds of Fontanini pieces. He is signing pieces bought that day, but will also be willing to sign a Fontanini figurine a customer may bring into the store,” Nelson remarked.

Jordan said the House of Fontanini started in a one-room shop in a northern Italian village.

“Emanuele Fontanini apprenticed with an artist at the age of 13. The first Fontanini figures were plaster, then paper mache with moveable arms and fabric costumes. His three sons followed in his footsteps as did their sons.

“Today, the fourth generation, including Emanuele, Stefano, Marco and Luca, continues the family legacy,” said Jordan.